Atlantic Whitefish Action Plan Summary Statement

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) requires the development of one or more action plans based on the recovery strategy for those species listed as endangered or threatened on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1). The Atlantic Whitefish is among those species listed as endangered under SARA. In February of 2007, DFO posted the final Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada, which sets out the goals, objectives, and approaches for recovering the species, and the timelines for completion of the first action plan. In accordance with the recovery strategy, an action plan for Atlantic Whitefish was to be completed within 2 years.

Pursuant to subsection 50(4) of the SARA, this statement summarizes what has been prepared to date with respect to the action plan for Atlantic Whitefish. Although many activities are currently underway to recover Atlantic Whitefish, improving fish passage at the Crousetown Dam, as a first step toward promoting anadromy in the Petite Rivière watershed, has been identified as a priority, as discussed below. The first chapter of the Action Plan for this species will therefore focus on this particular action. Information gathered from the implementation and monitoring of fish passage improvements at Crousetown Dam will then be used to determine next steps for promoting anadromy and will contribute to subsequent efforts to implement the recovery strategy.

In consultation with the recovery team, an initial draft plan outlining the required steps for improving fish passage at Crousetown Dam has been developed and subsequently reviewed by relevant jurisdictions. The review and incorporation of recommendations from the jurisdictional review and completion of consultations is currently underway, and is expected to be completed later this spring. Once completed, this plan will form the first chapter of the proposed Action Plan for Atlantic Whitefish, and will be posted on the public registry for comment. What follows is a summary of what has been developed thus far in terms of this chapter of the Action Plan.

The Atlantic Whitefish Recovery Strategy has identified the establishment of anadromy as an important step toward the recovery of the endangered Atlantic Whitefish. What remains of this once anadromous species resides within three small lakes in the upper Petite Rivière watershed. A network of dams constructed over the past centuries within the Petite Rivière system either blocks or impedes fish passage at five locations between the three lakes and the sea. The dam at the foot of the first of the three lakes, Hebbville dam, effectively blocks any upstream migration of fishes beyond this point; individuals occasionally fall over this dam and cannot return. Fish passage is also impeded around an existing dam at Crousetown in the lower Petite Rivière below the lakes. Providing both upstream and downstream fish passage throughout the system will ultimately allow Atlantic Whitefish to migrate freely to and from the sea and between the lakes. The Crousetown dam is the first barrier to fish passage that Atlantic Whitefish would face when moving upstream in the watershed.

DFO has worked with stakeholders and other interested parties to develop the first chapter of the Action Plan which outlines how fish passage will be improved at the Crousetown Dam. Efforts at Crousetown Dam have been identified as a first step in a series of fish passage restoration priorities to promoting anadromy of Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Rivière watershed. Addressing fish passage at Crousetown presents several benefits related to assessing the suitability of the fish passage design, monitoring, species status assessment, human interactions, and fish passage requirements. Furthermore, starting at Crousetown will not impact the resident population within the lakes upstream. Once fish passage and monitoring have been successfully achieved at Crousetown and shown to have potential benefits to the Atlantic Whitefish population, fish passage can then be addressed at the other dams on a prioritized basis and based on gained knowledge.

Implementation measures proposed or underway to facilitate fish passage improvements at Crousetown include:

  1. Engage the community;
  2. Consult with Aboriginal communities
  3. Finalize the fish passage facility design;
  4. Determine and obtain the permits required for construction;
  5. Secure funding;
  6. Secure access to the fish passage facility;
  7. Construct the fish passage facility;
  8. Monitor the effects of improved fish passage at the Crousetown Dam.

This step-by-step approach to recovery planning and implementation, with a first focus on fish passage improvement in the Petite Rivière, was adopted for Atlantic Whitefish. This approach represents the best opportunity in the short term to facilitate the recovery objectives for this species which at this time has a restricted distribution with in the watershed. Many of the activities to implement this particular chapter of the Action Plan are already planned or underway. It is anticipated that construction of a fish passage facility at the Crousetown Dam may be completed as early as 2010, depending on availability of funding and other operational considerations.

A socio-economic evaluation indicates that at this time the quantifiable short to medium term socio-economic costs associated with fish passage improvement at Crousetown Dam are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These costs are largely associated with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the fish passage facility. In the short term, fish passage improvement at this dam will result in modest increases in economic activity and possible job creation, yield important data which will further the understanding of Atlantic Whitefish, and could potentially result in benefits to other species utilizing the fish passage facility. Over the long term, when combined with future actions, construction of this fish passage facility is expected to aid in the continued existence and recovery of the species which will yield a number of additional benefits.

There is a need to acquire information incrementally in order to incorporate knowledge acquired into successive fish passage improvements and research studies. This chapter of the Action Plan is the first step towards improving fish passage throughout the Petite Rivière watershed. Additional actions to address the other steps required to fully promote anadromy of Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Rivière will be pursued in future recovery efforts and may be included in a subsequent chapter of the action plan based on lessons learned from fish passage improvements at Crousetown Dam.