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Recovery Strategy for the Northern Madtom (Noturus stigmosus) in Canada (Proposed)

Executive summary

The Northern Madtom is a small (132 mm, maximum total length) freshwater catfish recognized by an overall mottled colour pattern with three distinct saddle-shaped markings on the back, located at the front of the dorsal fin, behind the dorsal fin and at the adipose fin. Evidence suggests that the Northern Madtom tolerates a wide range of habitat conditions and can be found in small creeks to large rivers, with clear to turbid water and moderate to swift current over substrates consisting of sand, gravel and rocks, occasionally with silt, detritus and accumulated debris. It is also occasionally associated with macrophytes such as stonewort. The Northern Madtom is native to North America and has a disjunct distribution throughout parts of the Mississippi and western Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair drainages. This species is considered to be rare to extremely rare throughout its range and has a global status rank of G3 (vulnerable); a national status rank of N3 (vulnerable) in the United States; and, a Canadian national status of N1N2 (critically imperilled/imperilled). There are two, possibly three, extant, reproducing populations in Canada: 1. lower Lake St. Clair – Detroit River; 2. Thames River of southwestern Ontario; and, 3. potentially the St. Clair River (a juvenile was caught in 2003, suggesting that reproduction may be occurring). A single specimen was collected from the Sydenham River in 1975; however, this remains the only record of Northern Madtom for this location.

The potential threats identified for the Northern Madtom include: siltation, turbidity, nutrient loading, physical habitat loss, toxic compounds, exotic species and climate change. Further investigation on the impacts and effects of these threats on the Northern Madtom is required to inform successful recovery efforts.

This recovery strategy was prepared by members of the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team and is based, in part, on content from existing ecosystem-based recovery strategies.

The long-term recovery goal (greater than 20 years) is to sustain and enhance the viability of existing populations of Northern Madtom in the Erie-Huron corridor, the Thames River (from Littlejohn Rd. upstream to vicinity of Tate Corners), and the Sydenham River if the species is still present in the system.

The following short-term objectives (5-10 years) have been established to assist with meeting the long-term recovery goal:

  1. Refine population and distribution objectives;
  2. Ensure the protection of critical habitat;
  3. Determine long-term population and habitat trends;
  4. Evaluate and mitigate threats to the species and its habitat;
  5. Determine the feasibility of relocations and captive rearing;
  6. Ensure efficient use of resources (human and fiscal) during recovery planning efforts; and,
  7. Improve awareness of the Northern Madtom and engage the public in the conservation of the species.

The recovery team has identified several approaches necessary to ensure that recovery objectives for the Northern Madtom are met. These approaches have been organized into three categories: 1. Research and Monitoring; 2. Management and Coordination; and, 3. Stewardship, Outreach and Awareness. Implementation of these approaches will be accomplished in coordination with relevant ecosystem-based recovery teams and associated implementation groups.

Using available data, critical habitat has been identified at this time for Northern Madtom populations in the Detroit River and the lower Thames River; additional areas of potential critical habitat within Lake St. Clair will be considered in collaboration with Walpole Island First Nation. Currently, there is insufficient information to identify critical habitat in the St. Clair River. A schedule of studies has been developed that outlines necessary steps to obtain the information to identify critical habitat in the St. Clair River, and to further refine current critical habitat descriptions in the Detroit River and the Thames River. Until critical habitat has been fully identified, the recovery team recommends that currently occupied habitats are habitats in need of conservation.

The recovery team recommends a dual approach to recovery implementation which combines an multi-species, ecosystem-based approach complemented by a single-species approach. The team will accomplish this by working closely with existing ecosystem recovery teams and other relevant organizations to combine efficiencies and share knowledge on recovery initiatives. The recovery strategy will be supported by one or more action plans that will be developed within five years of the final recovery strategy being posted to the public registry. The success of recovery actions will be evaluated through the performance measures provided. The entire recovery strategy will be reported on every five years to evaluate progress and incorporate new information.