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Recovery Strategy for the Carmine Shiner (Notropis percobromus) in Canada

Executive Summary

In 2001 COSEWIC reviewed this species as rosyface shiner (Notropis rubellus) and designated the Manitoba population as “Threatened”, based on its disjunct distribution in relation to other populations of the species, its restricted range, and the species’ sensitivity to changes in water temperature and quality. Upon re-examination, the Manitoba population is now believed to be comprised of carmine shiner (N. percobromus), a species that has not been reported elsewhere in Canada. This population is still believed to be disjunct from those in northwestern Minnesota, but its known distribution has been broadened from the Whitemouth River watershed to include the Bird River and Pinawa Channel of the Winnipeg River watershed. In 2006, COSEWIC re-examined and confirmed the status of the carmine shiner as “Threatened” based on an updated status report (COSEWIC 2006)

Carmine shiners are slender, elongate minnows. They are omnivorous lower to mid-level consumers and spawn in early summer. In summer, fish in Manitoba are found mostly at midwater depths of clear, brown coloured, fast flowing creeks and small rivers with clean gravel or rubble substrates, usually in or near riffles. Otherwise, little is known of their biology, life history, distribution, or abundance.  Information available on the species’ physiology or ability to adapt to different conditions is insufficient to identify factors that might limit its recovery.

In 2003, the Manitoba population of carmine shiner was legally listed as a “threatened” species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).  SARA confers protection on the Manitoba population by prohibiting the killing, harming, harassing, capture or take of any individuals of the species or the possession, collection or trade in the species. In addition, the general prohibitions of the Fisheries Act,including the Habitat Provisions continue to apply to the species. The species has no direct economic importance and limited importance as a forage species, but is of significant biological and scientific interest.

Threats to the species may include: overexploitation, species introductions, habitat loss/degradation, and pollution. Overexploitation probably is not a significant threat to the species as baitfish harvesters currently do not target it, and baitfishes are rarely harvested from habitats where carmine shiners have been found. If these fisheries became a concern in future their impacts could be mitigated by regulation and education. The significance of the threat posed by species introductions is likely moderate in the Whitemouth River and unknown elsewhere, with a low potential for mitigating any impacts. Habitat loss and/or degradation associated with flow regulation, shoreline development, landscape changes and climate change may occur in some reaches of the rivers inhabited by carmine shiners, and may pose a significant threat to the species at some locations. The potential for mitigation varies with the type of threat and the affected waterbody. The threat posed to carmine shiners by point and non-point sources of pollution is uncertain. Examples of some pollutants that could affect the species include farm fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. The potential to mitigate or recover from pollution impacts is moderate to high except where long-range transport is the main source of pollutants, since these substances are ubiquitous.  Scientific sampling may also pose a threat to the carmine shiner, but this threat is likely of low significance and can be readily mitigated.

There is no evidence that the Manitoba population has declined over time, but because of its apparently limited distribution and abundance, the species may be sensitive to future anthropogenic disturbances.  Consequently, the recovery strategy focuses on the maintenance or conservation of existing populations and their habitats.  Its goal is “To maintain self-sustaining populations of the carmine shiner by reducing or eliminating potential threats to the species and its habitat.”  

The overall recovery strategy has four main objectives:

  1. to maintain carmine shiner populations at their current abundance and within their present distribution;
  2. to confirm the specific identity of carmine shiners in Canada;
  3. to increase knowledge of the species’ biology, life history, habitat requirements, distribution, and abundance; and
  4. to identify potential threats to the carmine shiner from human activities and ecological processes and develop plans to avoid, eliminate, or mitigate these threats.

Three general approaches are proposed for helping to achieve the recovery goal and objectives:

  1. research and monitoring,
  2. management and regulatory actions, and
  3. education and outreach. Within each of these, a number of individual strategies are outlined.

Critical habitat cannot be identified for the carmine shiner at this time.  As such, the requisite schedule of studies is presented. Genetic (mtDNA) and morphological studies are underway to confirm the identity of carmine shiners in Manitoba and to help in the development of identification keys. An action plan to implement this recovery strategy is proposed within two years.

The effects of the recovery strategy on non-target species should be positive, particularly in the Whitemouth River watershed where it may afford protection to a number of other uncommon species, including the chestnut lamprey (Ichthyomyzon castaneus) and northern brook lamprey (I. fossor), which COSEWIC has assessed as species of “Special Concern”.