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Recovery Strategy for the Lake Chubsucker

Executive Summary

The lake chubsucker is declining throughout most of its range across Canada and the United States.  The Canadian range of this species is restricted to southwestern Ontario: the Ausable River, Lake St. Clair, Thames River (Jeanette’s Creek), coastal wetlands of Lake Erie, several tributaries of Big Creek and Niagara rivers (Tee Creek and Lyons Creek). 

The lake chubsucker is a small (less than 254 mm in total length), robust, deep bodied member of the sucker family, Catostomidae.  Across its range, the lake chubsucker tends to inhabit clear, well-vegetated, slow-moving or still waters with substrates of gravel, sand, silt and organic debris.  Ontario specimens have typically been captured in heavily vegetated, stagnant bays, channels, ponds and swamps.  Suitable habitats are thought to be decreasing in size and quality, predominantly due to agriculture-induced siltation and wetland drainage. 

The lake chubsucker is considered a Threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act.  As such, the Act requires that a recovery strategy be developed to identify approaches required to arrest or reverse the species’ decline. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in cooperation with the government of Ontario, has developed a recovery strategy to facilitate the protection and recovery of this species.

The long-term recovery goal (>20 years) is “to maintain existing distributions and densities of the lake chubsucker and restore viable populations to formerly occupied wetland habitats.”  The following recovery objectives will be addressed over a 5-10 year period to assist with meeting the long term goal:

  1. Determine the extent, abundance and population demographics of existing populations through a targeted sampling program.
  2. Identify key habitat requirements to define critical habitat and implement strategies to protect known occupied and recovery habitats.
  3. Establish a long-term population and habitat monitoring program.
  4. Identify threats, evaluate their relative impacts, and implement remedial actions to reduce their effects, where feasible.
  5. Investigate the feasibility of re-introductions for populations that may be extirpated or reduced.
  6. Coordinate recovery efforts with aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem recovery teams and other relevant or complimentary groups/ initiatives.
  7. Increase awareness of the lake chubsucker and the role of healthy aquatic ecosystems, and their importance to humans.

The recovery team has identified several approaches necessary to ensure that recovery objectives for the lake chubsucker are met.  These approaches have been organized into three categories; urgent actions are summarized below:

Research and Monitoring:

  • Conduct targeted background surveys at historical sites as well as other areas of suitable habitat.
  • Conduct targeted surveys of existing populations to determine range, abundance, and population demographics.
  • Develop and implement a population and habitat monitoring program to assess changes in population and habitat characteristics.
  • Determine seasonal habitat needs of all life stages of the species.
  • Ensure planning and management agencies are aware of habitats that are important to lake chubsucker.

Management and Coordination:

  • Share knowledge with relevant ecosystem recovery teams and work cooperatively to implement recovery actions.
  • Encourage municipalities to protect habitats that are important to the lake chubsucker.

Stewardship, Outreach and Awareness:

  • Promote stewardship among owners of land abutting habitats of the lake chubsucker.  Ensure they are aware of opportunities for financial assistance.
  • Work with landowners to implement best management practices.  Encourage the completion of Environmental Farm and Nutrient Management Plans.

The identification of Critical Habitat is an essential component to the recovery of Endangered and Threatened species under SARA.  Due to the general lack of detailed knowledge, the Recovery Team has developed a schedule of studies which outlines necessary steps to obtaining information for the identification of critical habitat.  Until critical habitat can be adequately defined, the recovery team has identified ‘currently occupied habitats’ as habitat in need of conservation.

A dual approach to recovery implementation will be taken which combines an ecosystem-based approach complemented by a single-species focus.  This will be accomplished through coordinated efforts with relevant ecosystem-based recovery teams (Ausable River, Thames River and Essex-Erie) and their associated Recovery Implementation Groups.  The recovery strategy will be supported by one or more action plans that will be developed within five years.  The success of recovery actions in meeting recovery objectives will be evaluated through the performance measures provided.  The entire recovery strategy will be reassessed every 5 years to evaluate progress and to incorporate new information.