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Information Summary for Consultations on the Proposed Listing of Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt (large-bodied form) as “Threatened” Under the Species at Risk Act

As part of the consultation process, the Government of Canada would like to hear your comments on the potential impacts of listing Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax), large-bodied form,as “threatened” under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has prepared this summary to provide information on the state of the Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt, large-bodied form, in Canada.

What is the Species at Risk Act?

As part of its strategy for the protection of species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. One of the purposes of SARA is to provide for the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation of biological diversity. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has the mandate to conduct assessments on the status of wildlife species and categorize them according to their level of risk for extinction (extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, or special concern). The Government of Canada considers the scientific evidence, the comments received from Canadians during consultations, and the potential socio-economic impacts before making a decision whether or not to include the species on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA. Recovery planning is undertaken for all listed species, and prohibitions are put in place protecting species assessed as extirpated, endangered, or threatened from being harmed.

Figure 1: Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt, large-bodied form

Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt

About Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt

Smelt are a small, slender fish that vary in colour from pale green to dark blue on the back and blue, purple, and pink on the sides. Smelt are a northern temperate fish capable of living in both fresh and salt water. Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt consists of a pair of genetically different populations found in a single lake in southwestern New Brunswick. One population is large-bodied (15-25 cm), specializes in eating other fish, and lives in deeper water, while the other distinct population is small-bodied (8-15 cm), specializes in eating plankton, and lives in shallower waters. These two populations differ in spawning locations and peak spawning times, which further promotes their genetic divergence.

Blue star indicates the location of Lake Utopia, New Brunswick, Canada

Map of New Brunswick (See long description below)
Long description of Figure 2

Map of New Brunswick: Lake Utopia is located in the southwest corner of the province, near the Town of Saint George.

Proposed SARA Status: “Threatened”

Both populations of Lake Utopia Rainbow Smelt (hereafter referred to as LURS) were assessed by COSEWIC in 2008 as “threatened”. This level of risk indicates that these populations are likely to become endangered unless some or all of the threats they face are addressed. In 2000, the LURS, small-bodied form (previously referred to as “Lake Utopia Dwarf Rainbow Smelt”) was assessed by COSEWIC and designated as “threatened”. It is currently on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and protected under SARA, and has been the subject of conservation and recovery efforts since 2003. Due to the fact that the small-bodied form is already listed, at this time DFO is consulting only on whether to also include the large-bodied form on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and thus protect it under SARA.

Threats to the Species

One of the primary threats to LURS is degradation of its already limited spawning habitat. Of the many tributaries to Lake Utopia, only three are known to be used for spawning by the large-bodied form of LURS. Degradation of spawning habitat may be caused by water level and temperature fluctuations and decreases in water quality. Stream blockages associated with man-made structures may also limit access to spawning habitat. Other activities that could contribute to habitat degradation in the lake and tributaries include industrial water intake/release, climate change, shoreline development, industrial and residential pollution, and All-Terrain Vehicle use. The enhancement of Atlantic Salmon in the lake, a native predator to LURS, is also a potential threat, as is the introduction of invasive predators or competitors.

Special Significance of the Species

The occurrence of genetically different and ecologically distinct populations of smelt living in the same lake is relatively rare. It is not known if the LURS large-bodied form has any current or historical significance to local Aboriginal communities; however it is not known to be used for food, social, or ceremonial purposes. DFO is not aware of any community or Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge on this species that has been collected at this time.

Protection and Recovery of Species under the SARA

If the LURS, large-bodied form is listed under SARA as a “threatened” population, it will be legally protected and subject to prohibitions. It will be illegal to kill, harm, harass, capture, or take a LURS (except under special conditions, when permitted by DFO), or possess, buy, sell, or trade any part of one. It will also be illegal to destroy any habitat deemed critical to the species survival and recovery.

Possible Management Measures

A Recovery Strategy that considers both populations of LURS is currently in draft: it has applications under the Species at Risk Act for the SARA-listed small-bodied population and applications under the Fisheries Act for the large-bodied population. Appropriate distinctions are made between the two populations in relevant sections of the document. In the event that the large-bodied population is listed under SARA, those sections of the recovery strategy will be amended accordingly. This Recovery Strategy and any Action Plans that follow will continue to be developed in collaboration and consultation with stakeholders and partners. Recovery planning for this species could involve working with the Province of New Brunswick to monitor activities to ensure compliance with existing regulations and agreements regarding identified threats. It could also involve promoting community stewardship and education initiatives to minimize habitat destruction and the introduction of exotic species. Proposed industrial and development activities will continue to be assessed under Federal and Provincial environmental assessment and review procedures to ensure that such activities do not threaten the recovery of the species or destroy any identified critical habitat.

Potential Socio-Economic Impacts of Listing Under SARA

A summary of the socio-economic analysis conducted by DFO on the listing of LURS, large-bodied form, under SARA is included as part of this consultation package.

The Consultation Process – Your Comments

As part of the consultation process, the Government of Canada would like to hear your opinions on listing the LURS, large-bodied form, as “threatened” under SARA, and any comments on the potential positive and negative impacts this listing would have on you, your industry, and/or the ecosystem. Your answers to the following questions will be used to help inform the decision whether or not to list the species under SARA:

  1. How would your activities be affected if the large-bodied form of LURS was listed as “threatened” under SARA (including environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts)?
  2. Do you support listing the large-bodied form of LURS as “threatened” on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA? Why or why not?
  3. Do you represent an industry, community, Aboriginal, or other group? If so, which group or sector do you represent?

To submit answers to the above questions, share your comments, or to receive further information about this species, please contact:

Species at Risk Management Division, Maritimes Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
1 Challenger Drive
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4A2
Email: xmarsara@mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca
1-866-891-0771

For a copy of the COSEWIC assessment for this species, or for other general inquiries, please visit the SARA Public Registry.

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