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Recovery Strategy for the Aurora Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis timagamiensis) in Canada (Final)

II. Recovery

  1. Recovery Goals, Objectives and Approaches
    1. Recovery Goals
    2. Short-term Recovery Objectives
    3. Approaches for Recovery
  2. Critical Habitat
    1. Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat
    2. Examples of Activities Likely to Result in Destruction of Critical Habitat
    3. Schedule of Studies
  3. Effects on Other Species
  4. Recommend Scale for Recovery
  5. Statement of when one or more Action Plans in Relation to the Recovery Strategy will be Completed
  6. Evaluation
  7. Activities permitted by the Recovery Strategy

1. Recovery Goals, Objectives and Approaches

a) Recovery Goals

Although historical data on population and biomass was not available for the native lakes, the recovery team was able to develop recovery goals for Aurora trout. These goals are based on knowledge of brook trout populations in similar oligotrophic waters, the current population and biomass in the native lakes and a realization that re-acidification is the principle threat to the populations.

The primary long-term goal of this recovery strategy is:

To maintain secure self-sustaining Aurora trout populations in both native lakes (Whirligig Lake and Whitepine Lake) at a minimum biomass target of 13 kg/ha for Whirligig Lake and 12 kg/ha for Whitepine Lake; a density of adult fish of 29 fish/ha for Whirligig Lake and 20 fish/ha for Whitepine Lake; and an age class structure that demonstrates no missing year classes. These targets must be achieved in the absence of any further human intervention (e.g. liming).

The values above represent the lower end of the 95% confidence interval for the biomass and adult population estimates from the 2003 field survey (to recognize statistical uncertainty in the population estimates). This survey was completed more than 10 years after Aurora trout were re-introduced to the native lakes and it is assumed that the populations are now stable.

It is the contention of the recovery team that the above identified targets should be achieved without the requirement for further whole lake liming for at least 10 years. If this occurs, Aurora trout could potentially be considered for down-listing or de-listing by COSEWIC.

In addition to the primary goal, three further secondary recovery goals have been identified:

  1. To establish a secure self-sustaining Aurora trout population in one or two non-native, well-buffered lakes to act as a wild brood stock refuge to the native populations in Whitepine and Whirligig lakes;
  2. To clarify the taxonomic status of Aurora trout, that is to determine if Aurora trout are distinguishable from brook trout at the molecular genetic level
  3. To maintain the captive breeding program.

The recovery team believes it is necessary to establish a viable self-sustaining Aurora trout population in a waterbody secure from known threats. The chosen waterbody will act as a wild brood stock refuge in the event of re-extirpation in the native waters or an unforeseen event that may compromise the captive breeding program. If no significant genetic differences are found between Aurora trout and brook trout, then Aurora trout could be considered for de-listing by COSEWIC or could be listed as a specific race or population rather than as a separate sub-species. Even if no genetic differences are found, Aurora trout would still be managed by OMNR as a unique component of Ontario's biodiversity on the basis of their phenotypic differences.

b) Short-term Recovery Objectives

The following short-term recovery objectives provide the focus for recovery initiatives over the next 3 to 5 year period (2005-2010). These objectives will be accomplished by the formation of a number of Recovery Implementation Groups (RIGs). The ATRT will continue to act as an overseer RIG, but will establish a number of task-oriented RIGs to assist in implementing the various aspects of this recovery strategy.

  1. The RIGs will ensure continuation of the long-term data collection and monitoring of water quality, trophic level food chains and the status of the re-established Aurora trout populations within Whirligig and Whitepine lakes. This protocol is to expand to include data collection and monitoring of any future waters where a self-sustaining, non-native population is established.

  2. A Genetics RIG will conduct an examination of molecular genetic data utilizing the most advanced techniques and newest molecular markers (such as nuclear ITS region or gene introns). The purpose of these studies is to determine if Aurora trout are genetically distinct from brook trout; to initiate investigations into potential genetic inbreeding depression; and to provide a recommended course of action(s) to reduce impacts if inbreeding is deemed to be a threat.

  3. A science-based RIG will:
    1. Ensure that data and analyses for the native lake field assessments are completed and the results are documented in a timely manner to provide guidance for future action planning. Past data and analyses will be synthesized into a report so that the pertinent information is more readily available;
    2. Complete critical load modeling for sulphate deposition in the native lakes that would maintain a pH above 5.0;
    3. Conduct detailed spawning habitat assessments in Whitepine Lake. Only general locations are known in Whitepine Lake at the present time. Groundwater flow measurements are also required for Whirligig Lake;
    4. Develop a suite of criteria based upon the habitat requirements of Aurora trout to assist managers in the identification of suitable waters for the establishment of one or two non-native Aurora trout populations. If established such populations could act as a wild brood stock refuge to minimize the risk to Aurora trout viability in the event of a catastrophic loss within the captive breeding program or the re-extirpation of the native lakes;
    5. Assist with the establishment of such a wild brood stock population(s);
    6. Develop a breeding strategy which applies knowledge established from Short-term Objective #2 (above).

  4. An approved recovery strategy will allow the continuation of the limited recreational angling opportunities (for additional details, see Section 12 – Activities Permitted by the Recovery Strategy).

  5. A communications based RIG will:
    1. Develop and implement a communications plan to engage the cooperation of potential stakeholder partners including other government agencies, industry, environmental groups and the public;
    2. Revise, deliver and monitor an educational campaign to measure the success of maintaining the specially regulated recreational angling opportunities for Aurora trout. This is a means of increasing public awareness and generating support for species at risk in general;
    3. Update existing and create new brochures, videos, displays and websites as necessary to facilitate recovery messages;
    4. Review and update the provincial Aurora trout policy and legislation to provide protection to all Aurora trout populations and the watersheds they inhabit.

c) Approaches for Recovery

The broad approaches identified for recovery efforts include Legislation and Policy, Research, Habitat Management and Population Management. Actions related to each approach are detailed in Table 2.

Table 2. Strategies and Approaches for Recovery
Broad ApproachThreat
Specific StepsAnticipated Effect
Low5(iv)Legislation & PolicyAllReview existing relevant policies and legislation to determine current level of protection afforded to Aurora trout and recommend appropriate improvements.Establishes an effective regulatory framework for overall Aurora trout conservation.
Low5(iv)Legislation & PolicyAllProvide input and advice on revisions to the provincial Aurora trout policy.Updates provincial Aurora trout policy that provides strategic direction for the conservation and management of Aurora trout and their habitat.
Low5(iv)Legislation & PolicyAllProvide input and advice on existing habitat protection guidelines.Update provincial protection to Aurora trout lakes, specifically those lakes containing Aurora trout which lie outside of protected areas (i.e. Provincial Parks).
High2ResearchInbreedingInvestigate the taxonomy of Aurora trout utilizing new genetic procedures and markers. Molecular data from representative samples from wild and hatchery populations are to be collected from both Aurora trout and brook trout. Newer molecular markers (Nuclear ITS, gene introns) will be used to determine if clear fixed differences exist between Aurora trout and brook trout.If fixed differences are apparent this would provide COSEWIC with quantitative supporting evidence for maintaining Aurora trout on the legal list of Species at Risk. If no fixed differences are found using these new techniques (which is consistent with earlier genetic assessments), then there would not be molecular genetic justification for maintaining Aurora trout on the legal list and down-listing or de-listing could be considered (or Aurora trout could be maintained as a designated population at risk). Should this research provide evidence for COSEWIC to de-list Aurora trout nationally as an endangered species, the province of Ontario would continue to manage Aurora trout as a unique element of global biodiversity. Secondly, it is necessary to determine the taxonomic status of Aurora trout prior to considering potential solutions for the infusion of new genetic material.
High2ResearchInbreedingInvestigate potential inbreeding depression as a result of low founding population size by examining available historical genetic material (e.g. tissue, scales, preserved specimens).It has been surmised that the low founding size resulted in lower diversity (and thus reduced fitness) in the current population as compared to populations of the 1940s and 1950s. Genetic analysis may determine if historical diversity is adequately represented today. This analysis would also provide information on the current fitness of the stock and may aid in developing potential solutions to address the long-term viability of Aurora trout.
Medium2, 3(vi)ResearchInbreedingContinue to assess the extent of potential inbreeding threats through further examination of 2nd generation crosses of Aurora trout and Nipigon strain brook trout. These fish are to be bred and maintained in the hatchery only. No proposal to stock these fish into the wild would be considered until the taxonomy of Aurora trout is clarified.2nd generation experimental crosses would clarify whether inbreeding does exist within the captive bred Aurora trout. In addition, the work would give an indication of the MHC (major histocompatibility complex – the functional genes responsible for immune response capabilities) diversity in Aurora trout and whether these genes still have the capability to evolve.
Medium2, 3(vi)ResearchInbreedingIf Aurora trout is genetically distinct from brook trout, inbreeding may still be a threat. To maximize available genetic diversity, efforts need to be directed towards locating the most genetically diverse individuals to develop the best combination of crosses. An opportunity exists to enhance reproductive fitness of Aurora trout without impacts upon the phenotype.This would make best use of the total available genetic diversity in existence in present day Aurora trout. It is very labor intensive, requires a great deal of time and still may not resolve the threat of inbreeding should it exist.   Despite this, it is still the best method of maximizing genetic diversity without compromising the genetic and phenotypic integrity of Aurora trout.
Medium2, 3(vi)ResearchInbreedingShould the results of the taxonomic investigation determine that Aurora trout are not genetically distinct from brook trout, there exists the opportunity to design an experimental management approach. That is, matched plantings of pure Aurora trout vs. Aurora trout x brook trout crosses could be bred and followed over two to three generations to compare reproductive fitness. Initially, these fish would only be held in the hatchery for 2-3 generations, but under this scenario, the fish may be stock in non-native lakes and their fitness compared under field conditions.The two native lakes would not be part of such an experiment and would always remain with pure Aurora trout in them. The results of this study would allow researchers to determine which strain is more reproductively fit. As well, it would allow an examination of the benefits and consequences of introducing brook trout genes into Aurora trout to enhance the reproductive fitness of Aurora trout without compromising the phenotype (i.e. create an Aurora trout phenotype that is carrying brook trout genes to increase genetic diversity). Additional discussions of the ATRT will be required prior to the implementation of this approach.
Medium1, 2ResearchInbreedingGenetic monitoring needs to occur for both juvenile and adult Aurora trout in both native lakes. Non-lethal genetic samples are required to track genetic diversity across successive generations.This will provide evidence of changes in genetic diversity over time should this be occurring. It will provide evidence of whether or not the Aurora trout populations are still capable of evolutionary change. This will also allow ties back to individual fish and will allow the establishment of a pedigree.  
High1, 3(iii), 4(iv)Habitat  ManagementAllInvestigate and describe in detail necessary habitat requirements (e.g. spawning habitat) for Aurora trout based upon studies within the two native lakesWill provide baseline critical habitat knowledge. This can be used to develop criteria for assessing the potential of non-native lakes for future introductions, thus allowing the establishment of additional secure, self-sustaining populations.
High1, 3(ii), 3(iv)Research; Habitat and Population ManagementAcidificationCritical load modeling will be completed to determine the reductions in atmospheric pollutants that need to be targeted to prevent re-acidification. Pollutants must be reduced to a level where pH will not be depressed again in the future. This will eliminate the negative impacts of acidification on Aurora trout recruitment.Similar modeling has already been completed for a number of lakes in Killarney Provincial Park. Reductions in air borne emissions responsible for acid rain will contribute to improved water quality. This will provide additional information for the Recovery Team and associated Recovery Implementation Group(s) in determining whether future liming will be necessary. Furthermore, knowing the extent of the required reductions in atmospheric pollutants is necessary background information for MOE in developing operating Certificates of Approval for industry.
High3(iii), 3(iv)Research;  Habitat & Population ManagementFulfills a Knowledge GapNeed to define the characteristics of suitable spawning sites. It appears that groundwater upwellings are necessary, although little is known about the required flow rates for successful spawning.Groundwater requirements for spawning are necessary for the selection of future candidate lakes for introductions. Establishing a non-native, self-sustaining, satellite population(s) is desirable for maintaining the future viability of the species.
High3(v), 5(iv)Habitat & Population ManagementAcidificationA Class Environmental Assessment (EA) for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves is to be completed for Little Whitepine Lake. This step will require approval from the Superintendent of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park as current Ontario Parks' policy generally prohibits the introduction of species that are not native to the receiving waters. A risk assessment screening as outlined in the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms will also be required.Completion of the EA allows Little Whitepine Lake to be approved for future stocking. Little Whitepine Lake is an ideal candidate as it is within the original watershed but was never acidified. The water chemistry is acceptable for the purpose of establishing a self-sustaining population; however, issues with spawning habitat need to be assessed.   
High5(iv)Habitat & Population ManagementAcidificationA Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves will be necessary to allow any future whole lake liming treatment of the native lakes should this be necessary.While recent results suggest whole lake liming is not necessary in the short-term, it would be ideal to complete an EA in advance to ensure no delays are encountered should liming become necessary for the native lakes in the future. The ATRT should determine if an EA can be completed in advance to avoid possible delays.
High1, 5(i), 5(iii), 5(iv)Habitat & Population ManagementAllThe park management plan for Lady Evelyn- Smoothwater Park requires completion. The recovery team suggests this plan not only be completed but needs to incorporate management actions for the recovery and management of the native Aurora trout lakes.Completion of the park plan will allow for the better coordination of recovery and management actions between park managers and the ATRT.
High1Habitat & Population ManagementAllMaintain long-term monitoring programs for water quality and benthic invertebrates within Whitepine and Whirligig lakes. This program will be expanded as naturally reproducing non-native lake populations are established. It is necessary to review the data collected to date and re-examine the current sampling frequency. All monitoring activities for the native lakes (this action item and the following two actions) should be completed in collaboration between the ATRT and Ontario Parks.Provides critical information on the water quality status of the Aurora trout lakes. This is especially critical for the native lake populations. This information will help determine whether or not additional intervention acts (e.g. re-application of whole lake liming) may be necessary in the short-term to prevent the re-extirpation of Aurora trout. It should be noted that all work within a Provincial Park requires approval of the Park Superintendent.
High1, 3(i)Population ManagementAllFinalize the current draft status report for Aurora trout. As well, compile all data and complete reports related to fish population surveys completed in Whitepine and Whirligig lakes.   Completion of these reports will provide resource managers with access to the most relevant up-to-date data on the status of Aurora trout.
High1, 2, 3(i), 3(iv)Population ManagementAllContinue to conduct fish population surveys to establish population estimates, biomass estimates, growth rate, age class structure, sex ratios, acquire genetic material, etc. in Whitepine and Whirligig lakes.   Repeat at least once every 5 years with frequency increasing if results suggest the potential for re-extirpation. This survey work will be extended to include any future waters where Aurora trout are introduced with the intent of establishing self-sustaining populations.Provides critical baseline information necessary to assess the success of the re-introductions into the native lakes (and into any non-native lakes). This population information from the native lakes will also provide insight into determining the need for future intervention (e.g. whole lake liming) to prevent re-extirpation of Aurora trout.
High2, 3(v), 3(vi), 4, 5(ii)Population ManagementN/AAs set out in subsection 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act, a person can engage in an otherwise prohibited activity if the activity is permitted by a recovery strategy and the person is authorized under an Act of Parliament to engage in that activity. The activities permitted by this recovery strategy under s.83 (4) are described under Section 12 – Activities Permitted by the Recovery Strategy.Continuation of the limited trophy angling opportunities will enhance public knowledge and interest in the species and support for recovery efforts. Additional activities such as egg collections from the brood stock lake and non-lethal and lethal sampling are necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of Aurora trout. Continuation of these activities is critical for managers to continue to monitor the success of native lake populations over the long-term, as well as for hatchery personnel who must ensure no disease agents are unknowingly introduced into the hatchery environment.   
High2, 3(v), 3(vi)Population ManagementMaintenance of hatchery brood stockContinue to maintain Aurora trout culture and production facilities at Hills Lake Fish Culture Station and continue to use Alexander Lake as a brood stock lake.Provides egg collection opportunities from existing managed brood stock for the purpose of ensuring long-term survival of the Aurora trout populations. Maintaining Alexander Lake ensures that the entire brood stock would not be lost following a catastrophic event in the hatchery population and vice versa. The brood stock is being used as a comparison to the re-introduced native populations to detect genetic divergence. The brood stock also is used to produce fish for stocking to the put-grow-and-take angling lakes.
High3(vi)Population ManagementInbreedingDevelop a breeding strategy based upon outcomes of research into taxonomic assessment and the other genetic studies.Will provide a method to maximize genetic diversity of Aurora trout
High4, 5(ii)Population ManagementN/AMaintain a total of nine angling lakes with the surplus fish from the hatchery.Provides excellent opportunities to promote awareness and provide education regarding the plight of species at risk and in particular that of Aurora trout. This does not affect the recovery of the Aurora trout because the native lakes (as well as any naturally reproducing non-native lakes and Alexander Lake) are closed to angling at all times. Limiting the number of Aurora trout angling lakes to a maximum of nine and minimizing their geographic distribution helps to ensure Aurora trout remain a unique element of global biodiversity. Unrestricted expansion of trophy fishing opportunities will only serve to minimize the uniqueness of Aurora trout and the conservation value it represents.
Medium3(iv), 3(v)Population ManagementAcidification. Meets a secondary Recovery GoalInvestigate the potential of other waters to support a self-sustaining Aurora trout population. Preference shall be given to lakes within the original watershed. However, in recognition of acidic deposition and water quality issues with the native lakes, it may be necessary to assess waters outside of the original watershed. In this case, preference will generally be given to adjacent watersheds, then across Northeast Region, and then to other watersheds outside of Northeast Region. Any lake selected must meet selection criteria established by the Recovery Team. Acidic deposition zones will also be considered when evaluating potential new waters.Priority will generally be given to suitable waters closest to the native lakes and with the lowest acidic deposition rates for the establishment of a self-sustaining satellite population. The area of search for suitable waters will start within the original watershed and will expand outward from there. Any water selected for an introduction will require a Class EA and the completion of the risk assessment screening outlined in the National Code for Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms.
Low4, 5(i), 5(ii)Population ManagementIllegal harvestingEncourage increased angler compliance through education and enhancing the current level of enforcement monitoring.Ensure that non-compliance events related to lake closures do not occur to assist with on-going and future recovery efforts.
Low4, 5(ii),  5(iv)Population Management Establish criteria for selecting new angling lakes if any of the existing lakes become unsuitable for stocking.Provides direction for selecting potential waterbodies as candidate angling lakes should any of the existing lakes be compromised.
Low5(i), 5(ii), 5(iii)Habitat and Population ManagementAllUpdate the existing Aurora trout brochure.Provides clear messaging to the public and others on the current status of Aurora trout. This and other communications products should be developed in Co-operation among Ontario Parks and OMNR Fish & Wildlife Branch.
Low5(i), 5(ii), 5(iii)Habitat and Population ManagementAllEstablish a biodiversity display at Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park (or another nearby Ontario Parks office) and possibly at the angling lakes.Similar to the display developed at Hills Lake Fish Culture facility, this display will be an educational tool for delivering species at risk messaging.
Low5(i), 5(iii)Habitat and Population ManagementKnowledge GapObserve and record on video Aurora trout spawning behaviour for use in displays.Provides excellent video images for media outlets that are always looking for up-to-date information on this flagship species at risk success story.
Low5(i), 5(ii), 5(iii)Habitat and Population ManagementIntroduction of Invasive SpeciesEducate the anglers on the consequences of using live bait in Aurora trout lakes through brochures and signs at the existing Aurora trout angling lakes.Will assist in preventing the introduction of non-native species into the put-grow-and-take Aurora trout lakes. This will be coordinated through OMNR's existing Invasive Species program and may include partnerships with organizations such as OFAH.

2. Critical Habitat

a) Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat

This recovery strategy identifies both native lakes, Whirligig Lake and Whitepine Lake, as the Critical Habitat for the recovery of Aurora trout. A whole lake approach has been taken, rather than a habitat feature-based approach, given that the habitat requirements of the species depend on the lakes being treated as a holistic system. This approach is prudent due to the small size of the native lakes and is reasonable given that they are located in a protected area – Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park (a wilderness class park).

b) Examples of Activities Likely to Result in Destruction of Critical Habitat

The two native lakes are located within the boundaries of a wilderness class park so they are protected from land use activities (e.g. resource extraction such as forestry or mining, road building, urban development, etc.) that would otherwise be of concern due to potential negative impacts to critical habitat. They do, however, continue to remain susceptible to acidification due to industrial emissions and this must be monitored closely.

Both lakes are also provided some protection through the application of the Timber Management Guidelines for the Protection of Fish Habitat. In addition, the Federal Fisheries Act provides general fish habitat protection. All lakes are protected from the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat under this Act.

c) Schedule of Studies

In the opinion of the recovery team, sufficient information exists to warrant the proposal of identifying whole waterbodies as critical habitat for the native lakes (Section 6 (a)). However, studies are required to fully document the spawning habitat location(s) in Whitepine Lake and to identify ground water flow rates in both native lakes. Additional consideration related to defining critical habitat for the non-native lakes needs to be given, particularly for lakes that are expected to be maintained through natural reproduction. Monitoring for natural reproduction in any newly introduced lake will be required. If natural reproduction is found in one of the non-native lakes, critical habitat components such as spawning sites could be added as an amendment to this strategy as the location of these sites are identified. If it is determined that the designation of critical habitat is advantageous in the stocked lakes, habitats within these lakes could also be added through an amendment to this strategy.

Alexander Lake and the other lakes that are to be used for the establishment of self-sustaining, non-native populations (e.g. Southeast Campcot Lake and/or Northeast Campcot Lake) will not be identified as critical habitat for the species at this time. As additional studies are completed to determine the specific habitat requirements of Aurora trout, habitat components in the non-native lakes can be identified as critical habitat through an amendment to this strategy.

3. Effects on Other Species

Prior to extirpation, but during the latter stages of decline, Sale (1964) noted that Aurora trout in Whitepine Lake co-existed with brook trout and white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) and only with white sucker in Whirligig Lake. No other fish species were apparent. He reported the invertebrate fauna to be typical of lakes in the area with Chironomidae, Trichoptera, Odonata, Notonectidae and Gyrinidae present; however, zooplankton (Copepod and Cladocera) were present in only small numbers and Gammarus were missing. Crayfish (Orconectes sp.) were also present.

Presently, the self-sustaining re-introduced Aurora trout populations are the only fish species within the two native lakes. Assessments of invertebrate communities were conducted after each liming treatment in Whirligig Lake to determine the impacts of the treatments on the biota. Species richness and abundance increased after each liming treatment, but overall the species composition reflects that of low productivity environments (E. Snucins, pers. comm.). The number of phytoplankton taxa almost doubled by the mid-1990s, while zooplankton species have only slightly increased compared to their pre-liming abundance. Known acid-sensitive species are rare or absent, but acid-tolerant species, especially larger cladocerans, which are preferred prey for planktivorous species like Aurora trout, are present in large numbers. Odonata have declined. Ephemeroptera on the other hand have increased due to an increase in the abundance of an existing species (Leptophlebia sp.) and the successful colonization of an acid-sensitive species (Stenacron interpunctatum) (Carbone et al. 1998).

In instances where Aurora trout is being considered for introduction into non-native waters it is anticipated there will be some level of impact. It is recommended in each instance that a pre- and post-assessment of the abiotic factors and biotic community be completed in order to determine if any negative impacts resulted and their extent. Prior to any future introduction, a Class EA for Resource Stewardship and Facility Development Projects will have to be completed for any lake situated on Crown Land, or the Class EA for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves would have to be completed for any lake within a Provincial Park or Conservation Reserve. As well, the risk assessment screening process outlined in the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms would have to be completed. Class EA's have been completed for all recent introductions of Aurora trout. As of the writing of this report, a Class EA and risk assessment screening is currently being completed for one new Aurora trout lake (Timmins #57 Lake). No other introductions have occurred since the inception of the National Code in September 2003.

4. Recommended Scale for Recovery

The Aurora trout is ideally suited to an individual species recovery planning effort since it has a very restricted native range and occurred naturally within simple fish communities. There is no other 'at risk' or rare species occupying the same lakes or watershed to permit consideration of a multi-species recovery planning process. Since Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park is in the process of developing a management plan there will be opportunities to compliment recovery actions (related to the two native lakes) with park activities and policies.

5. Statement of when one or more Action Plans in relation to the Recovery Strategy will be Completed

An action plan, in the form of the provincial Aurora trout Management Plan, has been guiding recovery actions since 1983. This plan, produced by the Aurora trout Management Committee, has been revised twice - once in 1993 for the operating period 1994 - 2004, and a second time in 2000 for the period 2000-2010. The current Management Plan is to be reviewed and updated to ensure that it meets the requirements of a Recovery Action Plan under the Species at Risk Act within one year of the approval of this Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Action Plan will provide additional details on the recovery tasks to be completed, the sampling and management protocols to be followed and the timing and frequency of the tasks such as monitoring and assessment.

Since the inception of the first Aurora trout Management Plan in 1983, the Aurora trout Management Committee (referred to as the ATRT in this strategy) has operated similar to an overseer RIG. The current structure and role of the ATRT is expected to continue for decision-making and guiding management actions with respect to recovery initiatives. Given the recovery direction identified within this strategy, it is likely that the ATRT will continue to act as an overseer RIG, but will establish task-oriented RIGs to deal with each of the broader approaches identified in Section 6 (b).

6. Evaluation

Success of this recovery strategy will be evaluated through the establishment of specific lake monitoring programs and through the results of applied research. The evaluation will be carried out by the appropriate RIG, but must achieve the following:

  • long-term maintenance of self-sustaining Aurora trout populations attaining stated biomass, year class presence, and spawning age density targets in the goal statement;
  • no further human intervention required to manipulate water quality within the native lakes. Specifically, intervention in the form of further liming treatments to ensure a pH of at least 5.0 should not be necessary;
  • successful establishment of one (or more) self-sustaining, non-native Aurora trout populations;
  • clarification of the taxonomic status of Aurora trout;
  • success in achieving further reductions in sulphate and other industrial emissions;
  • development of a captive breeding strategy, including potential solutions for reducing the threat of inbreeding depression and maximizing the reproductive fitness potential of Aurora trout; and
  • reporting on the establishment of new recovery partners and partnerships, general public awareness of Aurora trout, number of media contacts, anglers utilizing the limited recreational angling opportunities, etc.

7. Activities Permitted by the Recovery Strategy

As set out in subsection 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act, a person can engage in an otherwise prohibited activity if the activity is permitted by a recovery strategy and the person is authorized under an Act of Parliament to engage in that activity.

Continuation of Limited Sport Angling Opportunities

This recovery strategy permits holders of a sports fishing license issued under the regulations of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to participate in the trophy sport fisheries for Aurora trout as per the regulations set out under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 1989 pertaining to the recreational fishery of Aurora trout.

For a number of years, OMNR has maintained a maximum of nine put-grow-and-take Aurora trout lakes to increase public awareness and generate public and stakeholder support for the Aurora trout recovery program (and species at risk in general). These lakes provide limited trophy sport fisheries that are tightly regulated and operate on a seasonal, rotational basis. Only a maximum of three lakes may be open in any one year and each may only be open once in every three years for the period August 1st to October 15th, with a catch and possession limit of one fish. The permissible exploitation rate for the Aurora trout in non-native lakes should not exceed the catch and possession limit of one per day. These lakes are maintained by stocking fry, fingerlings or adults fish (depending upon availability) from Hills Lake Fish Culture Station.

The angling opportunities are currently regulated under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 1989 (under the federal Fisheries Act) and are allowed through a sports fishing license issued under the regulations of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The sport fisheries utilize surplus hatchery fishes not required for the ‘wild' brood stock lake or the establishment of self-sustaining, non-native refuge lake (note – the native lakes are supported by natural reproduction and are not presently stocked). The harvest of fish from the angling lakes does not jeopardize the recovery of Aurora trout in the wild because the fisheries are based solely on fish raised in the hatchery and there is no natural reproduction in these lakes. The two native Aurora trout lakes have been permanently closed to angling under the Ontario Fishery Regulations since 1950.