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Part 2: Information About the Species

Lake Sturgeon (DU1 - Western Hudson Bay populations)

Status: Endangered

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Churchill River system of northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

 

How many fish are there?

Historic harvest information indicates a decline of over 90% of this population between 1920s and 1940s with no evidence of subsequent substantial increase since.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Current threats include dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

A precipitous > 98% decline from 1929-1939 has been followed by a slow, steady decline in the Churchill River to the point that records of mature individuals are almost non-existent in the past five years. Historically, overexploitation probably was the primary threat; more recently, dams are probably the most important threat.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Lake Sturgeon (Western Hudson Bay populations) being added to the SARA List.

LakeSturgeon (DU2 - Saskatchewan River populations)

Status: Endangered

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Saskatchewan River and all immediate drainages (in western Manitoba, central Saskatchewan and east-central Alberta) upstream of the Grand Rapids Dam at Lake Winnipeg.

 

How many fish are there?

There have been major reductions in the numbers of fish from the 1920s to 1960s. And since the 1970s there has been a further decline of as much as 80% of Lake Sturgeon in this river system.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Seventy-six of 111 historic sites in Saskatchewan and Alberta have been lost and there has been an 80% decline reported in the Cumberland House area from 1960-2001. A 50% decline from 1998 to 2003 has also been reported in the lower Saskatchewan River from Cumberland House to The Pas in Manitoba.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Lake Sturgeon (Saskatchewan River populations) being added to the SARA List.


Lake Sturgeon (DU3 - Nelson River populations)

Status: Endangered

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Nelson River system in northeastern Manitoba.

 

How many fish are there?

Historic commercial harvest data indicated large declines in abundance of Lake Sturgeon in the Nelson River system since the early 1900s. Dams have fragmented the population into isolated sub-populations; numbers of fish in the largest sub-population have declined 80-90% from the early 1960s to late 1990s and declined further thereafter.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Portions of this designatable unit sustained large commercial fisheries from the early to mid-1900s, during which time there were dramatic declines in landings. More recently, a fishery at Sipiwesk Lake exhibited an 80-90% decline in landings from 1987-2000; and groups of 5-6 spawning fish were observed in the Landing River in 1990 compared to 100s observed several decades ago. Historically, overexploitation probably was the primary threat; more recently, dams probably are the most important threat.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Lake Sturgeon (Nelson River populations) being added to the SARA List.


Lake Sturgeon (DU4 - Red-Assiniboine rivers - Lake Winnipeg populations)

Status: Endangered

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Red and Assiniboine rivers, and Lake Winnipeg and its tributaries the Bloodvein, Pigeon, Poplar and Berens rivers in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

 

How many fish are there?

Lake Sturgeon in Lake Winnipeg were depleted by commercial exploitation in the first decades of 1900s. Populations in the Red and Assiniboine rivers were also depleted and there is no evidence of naturally producing populations in these watersheds in recent years. Smaller rivers draining into Lake Winnipeg continue to support Lake Sturgeon but with fewer than 100 spawning females.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

A very large commercial fishery existed between the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since then (i.e. in the last 3-5 generations), the species has virtually disappeared from the Red-Assiniboine River and Lake Winnipeg. This was primarily the result of overfishing, although dams probably also affect remnant populations.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Lake Sturgeon (Red-Assiniboine rivers - Lake Winnipeg populations) being added to the SARA List.


Lake Sturgeon (DU5 - Winnipeg River - English River populations)

Status: Endangered

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Winnipeg and English rivers systems in southeastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

 

How many fish are there?

Populations in these river systems once supported commercial harvesting in the 1930s but harvests declined thereafter until it was closed in 1970. At present Lake Sturgeon are uncommon to rare at historically major spawning sites and are rarely taken in angling and subsistence catches.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Historically, populations in this designatable unit supported a large commercial fishery. However, there are limited historical and recent data. The limited recent data available shows that populations are declining in the Winnipeg River above Seven Sisters Dam, and essentially have disappeared below the dam. Historically, overexploitation probably was the primary threat; now dams and poaching probably are the most important threats.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Lake Sturgeon (Winnipeg River – English River populations) being added to the SARA List.


Lake Sturgeon (DU6 - Lake-of-the-Woods – Rainy River populations)

Status: Special Concern

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Lake-of-the-Woods and Rainy River systems in northwestern Ontario.

 

How many fish are there?

Lake Sturgeon were reduced by commercial fishery in the 1800s but there has been substantial rebuilding in recent decades. Total population estimate is not available, but estimates of the Rainy River/Lake portion of Lake-of-the-Woods exceed 50,000 fish that are greater than one meter.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Historically, populations in this designatable unit supported a substantial commercial fishery. Although this led to a severe decline, recovery has been sustained since 1970. Dams have not impeded access to important stretches of suitable habitat, but do restrict immigration from the adjacent Winnipeg River.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A management plan must be prepared within three years of the Lake Sturgeon (Lake-of-the-Woods – Rainy River populations) being added to the SARA List.

Lake Sturgeon (DU7 - Southern Hudson Bay – James Bay population)

Status: Special Concern

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

Fish within the Southern Hudson Bay and James Bay ecozone are widely distributed among many large river systems of northeastern Manitoba (such as the Hayes and Gods rivers), northern Ontario and northwestern Quebec.

 

How many fish are there?

Populations in a number of watersheds in northeastern Manitoba, northern Ontario and northwestern Quebec appear healthy but they are poorly quantified. Many drainages have not been subjected to commercial fisheries and where they did occurred, all but three have been closed due to unsustainable harvesting in the past.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing. In a major part of the Lake Sturgeon distribution area in Northern Quebec, Lake Sturgeon fishing, since 1973, has been limited to the Native people.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

There are limited population data available for populations in this designatable unit and there have been declines in habitat and possibly abundance for some population components related to exploitation and the multitude of dams. The increased access to relatively unimpacted populations and the likelihood of increased hydroelectric development in some areas are causes for concern for this designatable unit.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A management plan must be prepared within three years of the Lake Sturgeon (Southern Hudson Bay – James Bay populations) being added to the SARA List.

Lake Sturgeon (DU8 - Great Lakes – Western St. Lawrence populations)

Status: Threatened

Last examined by COSEWIC:November 2006

Biology

The Lake Sturgeon is one of Canada’s largest freshwater fishes reaching lengths of up to 3 m and weights of up to 180 kg.  It has atorpedo-shaped body characterized by a “shark like” tail and rows of enlarged bony plates or scutes; one located down the back and two rows along each side.  These scutes are believed to protect young sturgeon from predators and older sturgeon from injury. Other distinguishing features include a protrusible (sucking) mouth located on the underside of a long snout and a row of four barbels or feelers, used to detect food, located across the front of the mouth.  Sturgeon are generally found in larger lakes and rivers and are mainly bottom dwellers feeding of worms, insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.  They are a slow growing fish but are also long lived, occasionally exceeding 100 years in age.  Sexual maturity may not be reached until as late as 25 years with females not spawning in every year.  Spawning typically occurs in late May to mid-June within fast water, usually at the base of rapids or falls.  

 

Where are they found?

They are found in the Great Lakes and Western St. Lawrence in Ontario and Quebec.

 

How many fish are there?

Populations of Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes and tributaries have been greatly reduced because of commercial fisheries in late 1800s or early 1900s but self-sustaining populations are still present throughout. In the Quebec portion of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries, there are indications that some populations are increasing due to habitat improvement initiatives and better enforcement of existing sustainable fisheries.

Threats to the population

Threats to the Lake Sturgeon include overexploitation, dams, habitat degradation, contaminants, and introduced species. Commercial fishing was the most significant factor that caused the historical decline of Lake Sturgeon populations. Currently, the major threat is dams. Their impacts include barriers to movement especially during spawning, entrainment, and disruptions of seasonal habitat, and spawning triggers and timing.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

A very large commercial fishery existed in the Great Lakes between the mid-1800s and early 1900s (i.e. 2-3 generations ago) during which time populations of this species were reduced to a small fraction of their original size, and appear to be still at very low levels. Populations appear to be declining in parts of the Ottawa River, and disappearing from many of its tributaries due to dams. There has been a recent decline in the population in the St. Lawrence River probably due to overexploitation despite recovery efforts. The direct and indirect effects of dams, chemical control of sea lamprey, contaminants and invasive species currently threaten populations.

What will happen if this fish is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within two years of the Lake Sturgeon (Great Lakes – Western St. Lawrence populations) being added to the SARA List.