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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Copper Redhorse in Canada

Existing Protection or Other Status

As in the case of other fish species, the copper redhorse and its habitat receive a level of protection under the federal Fisheries Act, (R.S. 1985, c. F-14) and two Quebec statutes, namely the Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife (R.S.Q. C-61.1) and the Environment Quality Act (R.S.Q. c. Q-2). However, because these statutes were found to be inadequate to ensure the preservation of the species, additional measures have been taken. For example, fishing for suckers and redhorse is prohibited in certain parts of rivers and streams inhabited by the copper redhorse. Two recovery plans (1995-1999 and 1999-2003) have been developed and, to date, several proposed actions have been carried out. However, much work remains to be done to ensure the survival of the species (Comité d’intervention 1995, 1999). A third document (a 2004-2008 recovery plan) is currently being drafted. In the spring of 2001, following considerable efforts involving numerous partners, the multi-species fish ladder at Saint-Ours was opened. In October 2002, the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec and its partners inaugurated the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve with the aim of preserving the integrity of the most important spawning area, preventing the disturbance of spawners and of egg-laying sites during the reproduction period. The Regulation Respecting the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve (c. C-61.1, r.3.01.3.3) provides legal protection to the entire territory against possible physical, chemical or biological alterations of the habitat and prohibits all activity during the copper redhorse spawning and egg incubation period, i.e., from June 20 to July 20, in areas used for that purpose. Efforts are currently under way to acquire Jeannotte Island at Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, the shores of which are practically the only ones still intact in this sector, an important nursery site for juvenile redhorse in the Richelieu River.

The copper redhorse was designated threatened in 1987 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) (Mongeau et al. 1988). The situation described in La Haye and Huot (1995) and numerous initiatives by members of the environmental community led to the designation of the copper redhorse as a threatened species in April 1999 under the Quebec Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species (R.S.Q., c. E‑12.01). This status is the highest level of protection that can be granted to a species and is applied when the loss of the species is feared. The copper redhorse is the first species to have been so designated under this Act. However, this designation does not provide any special protection for copper redhorse habitats. These habitats are and continue to be protected by the Regulations Respecting Wildlife Habitats. The species is considered critically imperiled at the provincial (rank S1), national (rank N1 since December 5, 1996) and global scale (rank G1 since September 19, 1996). The American Fisheries Society has assigned the copper redhorse the status of threatened species (NatureServe 2003). The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has considered it vulnerable since 1996 (Gimenez 1996).