Skip booklet index and go to page content

COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Lake Sturgeon in Canada

Distribution

Global Range

Historically, the North American distribution of lake sturgeon ranged from western Alberta eastward to the St. Lawrence drainage of Quebec, and from the southern Hudson Bay drainage southward to lower Mississippi drainage in northern Mississippi and Alabama (Figures 10-11). Few freshwater fish species had a wider geographic range in North America. Currently, it is presumed to be reduced in distribution and abundance throughout most of its historic range in the United States.


Figure 10: Historic Distribution of Lake Sturgeon in North America

Figure 10: Historic distribution of lake sturgeon in North America.

The Hudson Bay drainage is delineated. American states are shaded according to their NatureServe status.


Figure 11: Historic Lake Sturgeon Distribution in Ontario Indicating the Main River Systems of Northern Ontario

Figure 11: Historic lake sturgeon distribution in Ontarioindicating the main river systems of northern Ontario [adapted from Ferguson and Duckworth (1997)].

Adapted from Ferguson and Duckworth (1997).


Canadian Range

The distribution of lake sturgeon in Canada includes rivers of Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes, and inland lakes and rivers of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec (Figures, 7-12). In the northern part of its Canadian distribution, it ranges (at least) from the Churchill River on the west side of Hudson Bay in the northwest, to the La Grande River on the east side of Hudson Bay in the northeast (Harkness and Dymond 1961; Scott and Crossman (1998). Gruchy and Parker (1978), Scott and Crossman (1998), and Stewart and Watkinson (2004) give the northern distribution limit on the west side of Hudson Bay as the Seal River, based on Harkness and Dymond (1961). However, Harkness and Dymond (1961) provide no evidence of records for the Seal River and there is uncertainty as to its ever being present north of the Churchill River. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Nature do not possess any lake sturgeon specimens from the Seal River (B. Franzin, Environmental Science Division, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Freshwater Institute, Winnipeg, MB; D. MacDonell, North/South Consultants, Winnipeg, MB; personal communications).


Figure 12: Historic Lake Sturgeon Distribution in Quebec, Indicating Rivers in Northern Quebec

Figure 12: Historic lake sturgeon distribution in Quebec, indicating rivers in northern Quebec [adapted from Ferguson and Duckworth (1997)].

Adapted from Ferguson and Duckworth (1997).

In the southern part of its Canadian distribution, the species ranges from the South Saskatchewan River in western Alberta (McLeod et al. 1999) to the St. Lawrence River at Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, about 125 km downstream from Québec City, in the east (Scott and Crossman 1998). The lake sturgeon is also present in the lower sections of the larger rivers draining into the St. Lawrence River west of the salt water (e.g. L’Assomption, Richelieu, Saint-François, Saint-Maurice, Batiscan, Chaudière rivers). Atlantic and lake sturgeon co-occur in the upper part of the St. Lawrence River, from Lake Saint-Pierre to the limits of fresh water.