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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic Salmon (Lake Ontario population) in Canada

Summary of Status Report

Atlantic salmon were once so plentiful in Lake Ontario that they formed a staple in the diet of aboriginal peoples and of early European settlers of the Lake Ontario watershed.  The Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon was likely reproductively isolated from its marine conspecifics; further, the population had observably unique phenotypic and behavioural traits providing evidence of adaptation to the freshwater environment of Lake Ontario and its tributaries.  It is accepted that many conditions contributed to the decline and ultimate disappearance of the Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario; however,most are attributable to the human impacts on habitat as well as fishing.  There has not been a native Atlantic salmon taken from Lake Ontario since before 1900.  Although several stocking programs have been attempted with non-native stocks, to date there has not been success in establishing a self-sustaining population.  Providing that habitat restoration efforts continue and that a suitable stocking strain is found, Atlantic salmon might be re-established in Lake Ontario.  However, the native Atlantic salmon DU, with a likely history of thousands of years, is extinct in Lake Ontario.