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Recovery strategy for the spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) in Canada

Appendices

Appendix 1: Record of cooperation and consultation

The Spotted Gar recovery strategy was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA) with input from the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team. This recovery team was chaired by DFO and includes representatives from PCA, Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), Trent University, and the University of Windsor.

The Spotted Gar is also included in the Essex-Erie recovery strategy (EERS). The Essex-Erie Recovery Team (EERT), which prepared that strategy, has representatives from Essex Region Conservation Authority (who co-chaired the team with DFO), Catfish Creek Conservation Authority, Elgin Stewardship Committee, Essex County Stewardship Network, Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, Long Point Region Conservation Authority, OMNR, PCA (Point Pelee National Park), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, Stewardship Kent, and University of Windsor.

DFO has attempted to engage all potentially affected Aboriginal communities in southern Ontario during the development of the proposed recovery strategy for the Spotted Gar. Information packages were sent to Chief and Council of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Mississauga of the New Credit, Moravian of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Six Nations of the Grand River and Walpole Island First Nation. Caldwell First Nation has a particular interest in Point Pelee National Park. Information packages were also sent to Metis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Captain of the Hunt for Region 9 and the MNO senior policy advisor. Members of these communities may have traveled or harvested fish from the waters of Lake Erie where Spotted Gar was historically found. Follow-up telephone calls were made to each community office to ensure that packages were received and to ask if they would like to schedule a meeting to learn more about species at risk in general and proposed recovery strategies.

As a result of these letters and calls, one meeting was held with the Chief and Councillor for environmental issues of the Munsee - Delaware First Nation. Comments received during consultation did not result in notable changes to the recovery strategy.

In addition to the above activities, DFO has established an ongoing dialogue with respect to aquatic species at risk in general with the policy advisor to the Southern First Nations Secretariat and has engaged the London Chiefs Council (an association of the eight area First Nation governments in southwestern Ontario) on several occasions. Meetings have been held with the director of the Walpole Island Heritage Centre and the Resource Protection Program Enforcement Officer from Walpole Island First Nation (WIFN). In March 2011, DFO conducted community consultation sessions with WIFN on several recovery documents, including the present recovery strategy. Feedback and written comments were received for consideration. DFO also discussed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) issues with a representative of the Six Nations of the Grand who works for the Six Nations EcoCentre and who also represents First Nation interests on the Grand River Fishes at Risk Management Plan, the Thames River Fish Management Plan and the St. Clair River Management Strategy.

Although many Aboriginal and Métis communities already received a letter from DFO (in April 2007) regarding a recovery strategy for the Spotted Gar, given the passage of time and the addition of critical habitat to the recovery strategy, a new letter was sent to First Nations to invite their comments on the updated strategy. This letter was sent in advance of the proposed recovery strategy being posted on the SARA Registry.

DFO prepared a list of non-government organizations and municipalities that may be impacted by the proposed recovery strategy. Information packages were prepared to inform these groups that the proposed recovery strategy was about to be approved and invited each group to comment on the strategy. As well, an announcement was prepared and placed in newspapers with circulation in the area where this fish is known to exist and was historically found to inform landowners and the general public about the strategy and to request their comments. These packages were sent and the announcements published at the time the proposed recovery strategy was posted on the SARA registry.

Appendix 2: Background data summary and rationale for areas identified as critical habitat

Point Pelee National Park - The ponds within Point Pelee National Park were rigorously sampled by Surette (2006) over a two year period, providing an extensive dataset for this population. Using these data, and the records of Razavi (2006), A.-M. Cappelli (unpublished data, 2009) and B. Glass (unpublished data, 2009), critical habitat for the Spotted Gar has been identified using an area of occupancy approach. Areas historically and presently known as Redhead Pond, Lake Pond, East Cranberry Pond, and West Cranberry Pond, as identified on the National Topographic System (NTS) map 40 G/15, and Harrison Pond are recommended critical habitat. The highly managed watercraft passage between Harrison and Lake Ponds known as Thiessen Channel (Figure 6) is excluded from this critical habitat description.

Records of Spotted Gar have recently been documented through sampling efforts in these ponds within Point Pelee National Park. Nineteen records (individuals ranging in length from 500-629 mm TL) were documented during 605 sampling events across all Park ponds in 2002 and 2003 (Surette 2006). Nine records were reported in 2005 (Razavi 2006) during a study of Sanctuary and Lake ponds to determine the quality of the Point Pelee National Park marshes using ecological integrity indicators. Observations of Spotted Gar within Harrison Pond, with photographic documentation, were made in May 2009 (A.-M. Cappelli, unpublished data) and a total of 93 Spotted Gar were captured in West Cranberry and Lake ponds in May 2009 for a genetics study (B. Glass, UW, unpublished data, 2009).

While visual observations of Spotted Gar, with photographic documentation, were made in 2009 in Harrison Pond, and in 2007 in Thiessen Channel (S. Staton, pers. obs.), existing anthropogenic features in these areas, including the Marsh Boardwalk (stationary and floating sections) and the area it occupies as well as Thiessen Channel, are excluded from this critical habitat description. The area occupied by the floating section of the boardwalk is delineated by the outer limits of the paired, metal containment pilings that the floating section shifts between. Thiessen Channel is excluded because it has been highly managed (modified and maintained) since at least 1922 to allow for watercraft passage from the western boundary of the marsh into Lake Pond and the other connecting ponds (Battin and Nelson 1978).

Rondeau Bay - Up until 2004, only 27 Spotted Gar had been captured at Rondeau Bay since it was first recorded from this location in 1955; however, in 2007, 210 specimens were caught at Rondeau, including 39 individuals from one net (B. Glass, UW, unpublished data). Spotted Gar specimens captured in Rondeau Bay since 2002 ranged in length from 433-761 mm TL. These capture data, as well as tracking data, indicate that Spotted Gar are distributed throughout Rondeau Bay (B. Glass, unpublished data).

Using these data, the area within which critical habitat for Spotted Gar is currently found, based on an area of occupancy approach, is identified as the waters and wetland areas (including seasonally flooded wetlands) of the entire bay (Figure 8). This includes the mouths of tributaries flowing into the bay, upstream to the point where a defined stream channel is observed.

Within Rondeau Provincial Park, the area within which critical habitat for Spotted Gar is found was further refined using available Ecological Land Classification (ELC) data for the park. ELC assesses the distribution and groupings of plant species and attempts to understand them according to ecosystem patterns and processes. It also helps to establish patterns among vegetation, soils, geology, landform and climate, at different scales. Using the factors relating to geology, soils, physiography and vegetation, ELC can be used to map vegetation communities at varying organizational scales (Lee et al. 1998, Lee et al. 2001). Spotted Gar capture locations within the park were compared with the park ELC data (Dobbyn and Pasma, in prep.) to determine the wetland vegetation types used by the species. All areas containing these ELC types were initially included as critical habitat; however, aquatic habitats that were isolated from the waters of the bay were excluded as these areas are inaccessible to Spotted Gar. In particular, the areas identified as wetlands to the east of Marsh Trail actually contain large sections of upland terrestrial habitats that isolate interior wetland pockets (i.e., sloughs) (S. Dobbyn, OMNR, pers. comm. 2009). Approximately half of the area within which critical habitat is identified lies within Rondeau Provincial Park.

Long Point Bay/Big Creek National Wildlife Area (NWA) - Limited data are available for the Spotted Gar population in Long Point Bay; there are currently 11 records for Spotted Gar in Inner Long Point Bay, the most recent of which is from 2010 (B. Glass, UW, unpublished data). The species was captured for the first time in Big Creek NWA (connected to Long Point Bay) in 2004, when two individuals (502 and 566 mm TL) were captured from one location (L. Bouvier, DFO, pers. comm. 2008). Additionally, Spotted Gar has been reported from the Long Point Unit (located at the tip of the point) of Long Point NWA; however, critical habitat has not been identified at this time as the record is 25 years old and was represented by a single specimen.

Using available data, the area within which critical habitat is currently found, based on an area of occupancy approach and refined using ELC, is identified as the wetland (including marsh, meadow marsh, shallow marsh, common reed, floating-leaved and mixed shallow aquatic, and thicket swamp ELC community classes) and aquatic (less than 2 m depths including open aquatic, submerged shallow aquatic, and open-submerged-floating-leaved, mixed ELC community classes) areas within Big Creek NWA, the area around Inner Long Point Bay and the mouth of Big Creek (Figure 7). Excluded from this description is the interior diked cell within Big Creek NWA where Spotted Gar have not been detected (the diked cell is not accessible to Spotted Gar).

The area within which critical habitat is found includes all contiguous waters and wetlands, excluding permanently dry areas, from the causeway west to and including all of Big Creek NWA to the low-head dike, except habitat contained within the interior diked cell within the NWA, and including Big Creek proper and all contiguous wetlands to the north of Big Creek. Within Inner Long Point Bay, the area within which critical habitat is found extends north to the pier at Port Rowan and south, down to, but not including, the dredged channels of the marina complex (see Figure 7).

Appendix 3: Aquatic vegetation removal - guidelines

Nutrient loading leading to excessive overgrowth of aquatic vegetation can reduce the quality of Spotted Gar habitat. In these situations, it is possible that limited vegetation removal could benefit the long term survival and recovery of Spotted Gar. Subject to site-specific reviews, small-scale vegetation removal projects using approved means may be allowed.

Site-specific reviews may be required for all proposed vegetation removal projects in Spotted Gar habitat and SARA permits are required. To minimize the potential impacts, the Rondeau Bay Aquatic Vegetation Issues Working Group in consultation with the Spotted Gar Recovery Team has recommended the following interim guidelines (2010) for limited vegetation removals. Note that future research may inform changes to these interim guidelines:

  • removals within the nearshore zone (up to 1 m in water depth) will be restricted to a perpendicular channel not more than 1 m in width (to minimize potential harm to spawning and nursery habitat);
  • private swimming areas will be limited to a maximum area of 6 m x 10 m, in water depths greater than 1 m;
  • private boating channels will not exceed 4 m in width in water depths greater than 1 m;
  • ‘main’ or ‘collector’ boating channels will not exceed 6 m in width.
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