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Species at Risk Act - Legal Listing Consultation Workbook, Copper redhorse

Your opinion is being sought by the Canadian Government in order to make an informed decision concerning the addition of the copper redhorse to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, as presented in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The status of the copper redhorse was first assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1999, and designated it as being “threatened”. Recently revised, in November 2004, this status was changed to “endandered”. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must now decide whether to recommend that the Governor in Council adds the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Before deciding how to proceed, the federal government wishes to consult Canadians, particularly those directly concerned, to obtain their opinion in order to properly determine the social and economic impacts, both positive and negative, of the addition of the copper redhorse to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. This consultation workbook was therefore designed with this objective in mind.

We encourage you to answer the questions (any or all) at the end of this workbook. We also invite you to add any comment you consider relevant. You can be assured that your answers and comments will be taken into consideration in the decision-making process. To make sure your comments are considered, responses are required before:


March 31, 2006

You can download a copy of this consultation workbook and find additional information regarding SARA at the following Internet address:


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The Species at Risk Act

A large variety of wildlife species inhabit Canadian lands and waters. Unfortunately some of them are in danger of disappearing. The Canadian government has therefore seriously committed to protecting them, particularly by adopting the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in June 2003, as part of its Endangered Wildlife Species Protection Strategy.

This Act provides a legal framework for adopting measures, throughout Canada, that will ensure the survival of wild animal and plant species and protect our natural heritage. This Act also establishes the criteria being used to determine which species must rapidly become the focus of recovery measures, and the methods to implement recovery in order to protect them. Finally, this Act establishes guidelines for cooperation between governments, organizations and individuals, and provides sanctions for offenders.

Environment Canada is responsible for the overall implementation of SARA. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has the responsibility for aquatic species at risk, except for individuals located on territories managed by Parks Canada (national parks, national historical sites, national marine conservation areas, and other protected heritage sites).

Since no single organization or entity can, on its own, take on the responsibility of ensuring the survival of a species, the effectiveness of the new Act will depend on everyone's goodwill to ensure the survival of all species at risk. With this in mind, SARA requires, at several steps throughout the process, that the federal government consult provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal People, landowners, resource users, and the general public.

The consultation objective of the current workbook is about adding the copper redhorse to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk presented in Appendix 1 of SARA. This list contains all the species that have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and benefit from SARA's protection. COSEWIC designated the copper redhorse as “endangered” in November 2004.. The reader will find more details in the following sections regarding the addition of wild species, in particular copper redhorse, to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and its legal consequences.

1.1. The role of COSEWIC

The mandate of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is to assess the status of wild animal and plant species present in Canada and assign them a designation. The Committee is comprised of specialists working in various relevant fields such as biology, ecology and Aboriginal traditional knowledge. The members of COSEWIC come from different circles, such as governments, universities, aboriginal organizations, and non-governmental organizations. They are appointed according to their expertise, and must provide independent, impartial and scientific advice and recommendations in accordance with the mission of COSEWIC.

COSEWIC assesses the biological status of wildlife species by using the best scientific, community and traditional knowledge available. It reviews research and takes into account community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge. In its species assessment, COSEWIC uses rigorous assessment criteria based on those developed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The first step in assessing the status of a wildlife species is to request a status report, which will then be reviewed by peers and approved by a sub-committee of experts on the species. During a meeting of COSEWIC members (once or twice a year), the status report is examined, and discussions are held in order to determine whether the species is at risk, and if necessary, to provide a status designation.

The statuses provided, which represent risk level categories, are as follows:

  • "Extinct" species: any species that no longer exists;
  • "Extirpated" species:any species that no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but exist elsewhere;
  • "Endangered" species:any species facing imminent extirpation or extinction;
  • "Threatened" species:any species likely to become endangered if limiting factors affecting it are not reversed;
  • "Of special concern" species: any species raising concerns because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activity or to certain natural phenomena.

COSEWIC submits its species assessment to the Minister of the Environment, who, in collaboration with the other competent ministers if necessary, initiates the process of adding the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.

For more information, please visit the COSEWIC Web site at the following address:


1.2. Wildlife species listing process

Once COSEWIC has determined that a wildlife species is "at risk", the first step to ensure its protection is to add it to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, otherwise, it will not benefit from SARA protection. When COSEWIC submits its assessment to the Minister of the Environment, the Minister must produce a recommendation and present it to the Governor in Council (GIC). Within nine months of receiving the COSEWIC assessment (from the Minister of the Environment), GIC must react to the report and recommendation in one of the following ways:

a) accept the assessment and add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk;

b) decide not to add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk;

c) return the assessment to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

After nine months, if the Governor in Council has not make any decision, the Minister of the Environment will have to add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, as recommended by COSEWIC.

The Governor in Council's decision will initially be based on the advice of COSEWIC, which is based on the biological status of the species. However, in order to make an informed decision, the Government of Canada must assess other factors such as the social and economic impacts that could occur from adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. This consultation is an opportunity for concerned Canadians to express their point of view and voice their concerns on this issue.

Once a species is listed as "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened", two processes are triggered. Initially, a series of prohibitions are adopted to protect the species, and in order to begin its recovery, a recovery strategy and an action plan are developed. In the case of the species "of special concern", no prohibition applies, but a management plan must be developed, and the potential impacts of the threats identified on the species must be monitored.

1.3. Protection

Under the terms of SARA, Fisheries and Oceans Canada must ensure the protection of all aquatic species at risk. When a species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk with an "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" status, prohibitions are automatically applied. The Act prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of any individual belonging to that species. It also prohibits people from possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading individuals of a species at risk. As well, the Act prohibits the damage or destruction of the residence or any part of the species' critical habitat, as defined within a recovery strategy or an action plan.

It should be noted that these prohibitions prescribed by SARA for "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" status do not apply to "special concern" species. However, protection measures provided by other laws and regulations still apply. Furthermore, a management plan must be developed in collaboration and consultation with other stakeholders in order to expose in detail the conservation measures for the species and its habitat.

1.4. Recovery planning and management plan

The goal of the recovery process for "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" species is to limit the causes of decline for that species by putting emphasis on stewardship and public awareness, among other things. First, a recovery strategy is prepared containing recovery objectives and strategies that are developed according to the threats on the species. Thereafter, an action plan is developed, which details the actions flowing from the recovery strategy. These two documents must indicate the critical habitat of the species as well as activities that might potentially destroy it. The program must include a schedule of the researches to be undertaken in case of a lack of knowledge. Once the critical habitat has been identified, the competent Minister must make sure there are legal tools to protect this critical habitat.

Planning the recovery of a species requires teamwork. The competent Minister must therefore gather federal, provincial or territorial government ministers, management boards, Aboriginal organizations, landowners, and other people likely to be interested in the recovery of the species, and consult with them during the development of the recovery strategy, which is a continuous process. The competent Minister must also prepare a report on the implementation of the recovery strategy, and the progress made towards meeting its objectives every 5 years.

In the case of a "special concern" species, a management plan must be developed. It differs from a recovery strategy and an action plan because it establishes objectives and goals aiming at maintaining sustainable population levels for a species that is particularly sensitive to environmental factors, but is not endangered.

In collaboration with various stakeholders, the competent Minister must prepare a management plan within the three years after registering a wildlife species as being "of special concern". When preparing the action plan, the competent Minister can adopt an approach based on several species or on ecosystems. Like recovery strategies, management plans are dynamic documents that can be modified to add new data.

Once the recovery strategies, action plans, or management plans are developed, they are published on the Public Registry (see next section). Anyone can make comments to the competent Minister in writing concerning the recovery strategy, the action plan, or the management plan for a listed animal or plant species. The general public has 60 days, after publication of the strategy or the plans in the Registry, to inform the Minister of their position. Within 30 days of the closing of the public commentary period, the proposed management plan must be completed. Management plans are assessed every five years and upgraded when needed.

1.5. Public Registry

The SARA Public Registry, available on the Internet, is a complete source of information on issues covered by the Act giving access to public records concerning the administration of SARA. It is a key instrument in allowing the government to respect its commitment to support public contribution in the environmental decision making process.

The Registry includes various documents, such as regulations, orders, agreements, guidelines, standards and codes of practice. Furthermore, it contains status reports, recovery strategies, action plans, as well as management plans. The Public Registry can be found at the following address:


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Background information on copper redhorse

Statut :endangered

Last COSEWIC assessment :  november 2004

2.1 Description of the species

Copper redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi, Legendre, 1942) is one of seven species of the genus Moxostoma (Catostomidae family) occurring in Canada. The metallic appearance of its scales is the reason for its name. In this family, there are three other species living in the same area: the silver redhorse (M. anisurum), the shorthead redhorse (M. macrolepiotum), and the river redhorse (M. carinatum).

2.2 Distribution of the species

The species occurs nowhere in the world except Canada, and its range is restricted to a few rivers in the lowlands of south-western Quebec. It is the only vertebrate that is found only in Quebec. Since 1942, the year it was discovered, it has been observed only in certain sections of the Richelieu, Yamaska, Noire and Mille Îles rivers, at the mouth of the Maskinongé River, and in a few reaches of the St. Lawrence River, between Vaudreuil and the downstream area of Lake Saint-Pierre. Its current distribution is limited to certain locations in the Richelieu River, to a short reach of the St. Lawrence, and possibly a residual aggregation in the Mille Îles River.

2.3 Copper redhorse biology

The copper redhorse has several biological features that distinguish it from its congeners, such as longevity (more than 30 years) and considerable size. 

2.3.1 Breeding and spawning

They reach sexual maturity at an older age (about 10 years) and spawn later in the season than its congeners. High female fecundity is another one of its features. The breeding period occurs at the end of June and beginning of July. So far, two breeding grounds have been identified, both in the Richelieu River, at several kilometres from each other: one upstream, in the archipelago of the Chambly rapids, and the other in the lower reach of the Saint-Ours dam.

2.3.2 Movements and migration

Younger redhorses have a different predilection site than adults. Younger redhorses are found in shallow water near the shoreline. They remain there at least until the beginning of their second year. The section of the Richelieu River that includes the Jeannotte and the Cerfs islands is a significant rearing area. Summering and wintering areas for adults and young redhorses two years and older are still unknown. It is possible however that adults winter in the reaches of the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur river corridor.

2.3.3 Diet

Over 90% of the copper redhorse diet is made up of small molluscs. Their pharyngeal apparatus is well adapted to crushing this small shell prey. This type of diet is unique to this species of fish in North America.

2.3.4  Population size

Since the discovery of the copper redhorse in 1942, less than 800 individuals have been identified. Despite the tagging made in the Richelieu River in the 1990s, no tagged fish has ever been recaptured. It is therefore impossible to estimate the number of individuals. Currently, the only estimate available concerns the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur aggregation. This group numbers around 100 individuals. There have been almost no captures of juvenile redhorses of two years and older over the last 30 years. These observations show how serious the issue of recruitment is.

2.3.5 Habitat

Some studies have described in a general way the streams where the copper redhorse can be found. They inhabit medium-sized rivers, with steep banks, a maximum depth of 4 to 7 m, a hard bottom, generally composed of gravel, sand and clay. Current is moderate and summer water temperatures are higher than 23°C. Areas with rapids are conducive to breeding. The two known spawning grounds (archipelago of the Chambly rapids and the Saint-Ours dam) have the following characteristics in common: riffle areas, with a moderate to slow current and depths ranging from 0.75 to 2 m; bottoms made up of different size gravel, rocks and fragments of bedrock partly submerged in the clay.

In 1998, an aggregation of copper redhorses was rediscovered in the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur sector of the St. Lawrence River. This reach of the river could be a spring or fall gathering area or even a wintering area. It could not be shown that this area was a spawning ground. Contrary to adults who avoid shallower areas with dense vegetation, young-of-the-year and one-year olds prefer them. The significant rearing site, located in the Jeannotte and Cerfs islands area, is characterized by a current and a soft slope, and by a homogeneous substrate made up of a mix of fin clay-silt particles and sand. The fry of the year prefer to gather in shallow areas (1.5 m) with vegetation.

2.4 Why has COSEWIC designated the copper redhorse as an endangered species?

Here are the reasons for the COSEWIC copper redhorse designation:

  • Global distribution of the species limited to a few streams in the St. Lawrence plain;
  • Rare in its distribution range and numbers in decline;
  • Weak numbers: total population estimated at a few thousand individuals at the most;
  • Particular biological characteristics: specialized diet species, and late sexual maturity and spawning periods;
  • Habitat degradation and fragmentation;
  • Introduction of potentially competing species;
  • Aging population and low recruitment;
  • Breeding difficulty in natural environment.

2.5 What is threatening this species?

2.5.1 Geographical and biological features

Global distribution of the species limited to a few steams in the St. Lawrence plain.

Since 1942, it has been found only in certain sections of the Richelieu, Yamaska, Noire and Mille Îles rivers (a residual aggregation), at the mouth of the Maskinongé River, and in a few reaches of the St. Lawrence River, between Vaudreuil and the downstream area of Lake Saint-Pierre. Currently, aggregations are located in the Richelieu River and a short reach of the St. Lawrence River.

Specialized diet species

The copper redhorse’s pharyngeal apparatus is very specialized and limits its choice of prey. Its diet is almost exclusively limited to small molluscs.

Late sexual maturity and spawning periods

Sexual maturity at an older age (10 years) and a late spawning period (shorter time for growth and smaller fry size facing their first winter) are two factors contributing to the species vulnerability. It has not yet been demonstrated, but it is possible that smaller fry are dying during winter.

Breeding and aging population

Some studies suggest that the species has difficulties breeding in a natural environment (late sexual maturity and spawning periods, restricted diet). The very low recruitment is insufficient to balance out natural mortality. The only two known spawning grounds are the Chambly basin archipelago, downstream from the Chambly rapids, and the one at Saint-Ours. The only confirmed breeding aggregation is in the Richelieu River, at two different sites.

Decreasing distribution range

There is no doubt that man-made activities jeopardize the species. In fact, the copper redhorse streams are located in the most heavily populated areas of Quebec. Other areas within the distribution range could have the necessary characteristics for copper redhorse breeding (Grand Moulin rapids on the Mille Îles River, Dorion and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue channels). However, there has been no copper redhorse found at those sites.

2.5.2 Degradation, fragmentation and changes to the habitat 

Among the different theories explaining the decline of the species, the most significant obviously have to do with habitat degradation and fragmentation. The degradation of the quality of streams is caused by, among other things, the excessive input of nutrients and by the increase of the rate of erosion (silting).

Agricultural, foresting and urbanization activities

It is likely that the copper redhorse disappeared from the Yamaska and Noire rivers because of significant problems related to heavy agricultural activities, foresting and to urban development: deoxygenation (eutrophication), silting and turbidity (muddy water). These changes destroy habitat and disrupt the entire food chain; the copper redhorse and its prey, molluscs, are particularly sensitive to this type of aggression. The excessive input of fertilizers in streams causes a blooming of vegetation that attracts carp (Cyprinus carpio), pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) and newly introduced tench (Tinca tinca). These species compete with copper redhorse and therefore restrict the available habitat for young-of-the-year. For adults, the blooming vegetation works against them because they usually avoid this type of habitat.

The discovery of zebra mussel colonies (Dreissena polymorpha) in the Richelieu River is alarming. This mussel could take over sites that harbour molluscs that are part of the copper redhorse diet. Furthermore, this mussel, which is well known for its ability to concentrate contaminants in its organism, could intoxicate the copper redhorse if it began eating it.

Some contaminants stemming from pesticide use and from water treatment plants effluents could interfere with hormonal signals and prevent males and females from being able to breed. Copper redhorse spawners, eggs and larvae are more exposed to contaminants than their congeners who spawn earlier in the season, because the spawning period coincides with the reduction of the flow in streams and the peak of agricultural pesticide application. These same pollutants are likely to contaminate copper redhorse prey that, by eating them, will also become contaminated.

Water control structures

Many dams were built in the copper redhorse distribution range and restrict its movements. This is the case of the Saint-Ours dam (between 1967 and 2001). Beginning in the spring of 2001, the Vianney-Legendre multi-species migratory fishway at the Saint-Ours dam allowed the copper redhorse to travel to the Chambly basin archipelago several kilometres further upstream. The Yamaska, Noire and Mille Îles rivers are also regulated, and the copper redhorse cannot move freely.


In the Chambly basin archipelago, near the rapids, recreational boaters and vacationers are also visiting the copper redhorse spawning grounds. Human movements on the islands disturb spawners, and in certain areas, eggs are being stepped on. In 2002, in an attempt to protect the copper redhorse habitat, the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Sanctuary was created and regulations were implemented.

2.5.3 Other factors

Lower water levels in the St. Lawrence River could make certain potential spawning areas inaccessible to copper redhorses and restrict their feeding grounds.

Because the copper redhorse was a favourite food in the 19th century, over-fishing could have weakened certain populations.

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Overview of potential consequences for different stakeholders

This consultation workbook was designed so that the different stakeholders can better understand the implications on their activities of adding the copper redhorse to the List of Species at Risk. If the species is listed, automatic prohibitions under SARA will apply. Under the terms of SARA, some prohibitions protect the individuals of a species designated as “extirpated”, “endangered” or “threatened”. The Act prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of any individual belonging to an “endangered” or “threatened” species, or damaging or destroying its habitat. It also prohibits people from possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading individuals – any part or derivative of such an individual – from an “extirpated”, “endangered” or “threatened” species.

A recovery process will be implemented and will likely result in the adoption of management measures that may have consequences on the activities of stakeholders concerned. In order to better illustrate this fact, a few examples of possible consequences are presented below. These examples, taken from the Plan de rétablissement pour la survie du chevalier cuivré(Moxostoma hubbsi) 2004-2008 (Gariépy S. and N. Vachon. 2004), are obviously not an extensive list of measures and is not necessarily a representation of what will actually become the adopted measures. It should be noted that the SARA was designed to implement a cooperation approach for species recovery, and in the event this species is added to the official list, all future management measures will be subjected to more consultations with regulating bodies and stakeholders.

3.1 Shoreline residents and landowners

Re-vegetating projects aiming at stabilizing river banks and protecting riparian strips, such as those put forward by agricultural or environmental groups or by public and private bodies, should be implemented.

3.2 Agricultural and industrial activities

Agricultural soil erosion at the head of watersheds and all along the river system sends suspended sediments, pesticides, fertilizers and agriculture-based pathogens into streams. To offset this phenomenon, cooperative measures between biologists, municipalities, governments, environmental groups and agricultural representatives involved in this issue should be encouraged. 

3.3 Recreational activities

In 2002, in order to protect the copper redhorse habitat, the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Sanctuary was created and regulations were implemented.

Acquiring river properties and managing strategic territories that give access to areas visited by this species would reduce the disturbance generated by boaters by limiting their access to these areas.

3.4 Fishery industry

Catching copper redhorse either through sport fishing or commercial fishing has already been outlawed in streams that are part of its distribution range. It is important to outline the extent of the threat that any fishery activity has on the copper redhorse. Should one of these activities threaten the survival and recovery of a species listed on the List of Species at Risk, management measures will be taken to eliminate the threat. Fishing could be prohibited, areas could be closed to fishing, fishing gear may have to be modified, or other measures could be adopted in collaboration with industry in order to eliminate or reduce interactions between the species and the fishery.

3.5 Municipal activities

Measures that are aimed at improving the quality and the flow rate of water, rigorous guidelines concerning development that can impact the habitat of the copper redhorse, and measures reducing the disappearance of natural shorelines could be developed.

Promoters of project involving the streams targeted by the copper redhorse recovery strategy should first take an inventory of the species and a conduct a risk assessment. Critical habitats will be subjected to strict protection measures and it will be forbidden to destroy even a part.

Additional or extended measures will not be implemented until new consultations have taken place.

3.6 Aboriginal activities

Aboriginal people will be contacted. Their interest in the copper redhorse is still unknown. It should be noted however that the recovery planning process will require new consultations.

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Let us know what you think

By answering the following questions you will help the federal government understand the benefits and impacts of adding the copper redhorse to the SARA List.

Please fill out the questionnaire that follows and send us your answers either by mail

Central and Arctic Region
SARA Coordinator
Freshwater Institute
Fisheries & Oceans Canada
501 University Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3T 2N6

by fax: (204) 983-5192

or by e-mail: fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

The deadline for receiving comments is Dec 31, 2005.

For questions or comments concerning the Species at Risk Act or concerning this consultation process, please write to us at the address given above or call us at (204) 984-0599.

Name :
Affiliation (if applicable):
Question 1
Briefly describe your business line or your interest concerning the copper redhorse (use of shoreline, agriculture, urbanization, etc.)

Question 2a
Based on what you know about the Species at Risk Act, do you think the addition of the copper redhorse will have a positive or negative impact on your activities? (revenues, turnover, opportunities, number of jobs, hours worked, etc. ) Explain.

Question 2b
On the other hand, do you think that not adding the copper redhorse would have a positive or negative impact on your activities? ( revenues, turnover, opportunities, number of jobs, hours worked, etc. ) Explain.

Question 3a
Based on what you know about the Species at Risk Act, do you think the addition of the copper redhorse will have a positive or negative impact on other activities (commercial fishing, sport fishing, other industries, communities, etc.)? Explain.

Question 3b
On the other hand, do you think that not adding the copper redhorse would have a positive or negative impact on other activities? (commercial fishing, sport fishing, other industries, communities etc.)? Explain.

Question 4
According to you, can these positive or negative impacts progress with time? Explain.

Question 5
If you indicated negative impacts, do you have suggestions in order to minimize them?

Question 6
In order for SARA to be really effective, the recovery of species at risk must be a joint effort, carried out in collaboration with all interested parties. According to you, how can the interested parties best be involved?

Question 7
How could you contribute to the recovery of the copper redhorse as an individual, company or institution? Can you give a few examples of activities?

Question 8 a) Are you in favour of the Canadian government adding the copper redhorse to the Species at Risk Act list?
Yes No Don’t know Yes, but  

  1. b)Check an answer for each statement below:
I believe this species is precious because it plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. 
I believe this species is precious for future generations.  
I value this species even though I may never see one.   
I believe this species needs protection or particular attention against interaction with humans and/or their activities.  
I believe that protecting this species will have a positive impact on my leisure, employment or personal activities.   
I believe that adding this species to the official list might limit my leisure, employment or personal activities.  

Question 9
Do you have any other comments or concerns?

Thank you for contributing

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