COSEWIC Status Appraisal Summary on the Grass Pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Canada - 2014

Special Concern
2014

 


Document Information

COSEWIC
Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife
in Canada

COSEWIC logo

COSEPAC
Comité sur la situation
des espèces en péril
au Cananda

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) status reports are working documents used in assigning the status of wildlife species suspected of being at risk. This report may be cited as follows:

COSEWIC. 2014. COSEWIC status appraisal summary on the Grass Pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xix pp. (Species at Risk Public Registry website).

Production note:

COSEWIC acknowledges Julia Colm and Nick Mandrak for writing the status appraisal summary on the Grass Pickerel, Esox americanus vermiculatus in Canada, prepared under contract with Environment Canada. This status appraisal summary was overseen and edited by Rick Taylor, Co-chair of the COSEWIC Freshwater Fishes Specialist Subcommittee.

For additional copies contact:

COSEWIC Secretariat
c/o Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0H3

Tel.: 819-938-4125
Fax: 819-938-3984
E-mail: COSEWIC E-mail
Website: COSEWIC

Également disponible en français sous le titre Sommaire du statut de l’espèce du COSEPAC sur le Brochet vermiculé ( Esox americanus vermiculatus) au Canada.

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COSEWIC Assessment Summary

Assessment Summary - November 2014

Common name
Grass Pickerel
Scientific name
Esox americanus vermiculatus
Status
Special Concern
Reason for designation
This fish is known from relatively few locations from southern Lake Huron to western Quebec. The subspecies has a scattered distribution in Canada and is not abundant in any area. The subspecies could become threatened if habitat quality continues to decline owing to changes in land use and invasive species.
Occurrence
Ontario, Quebec
Status history
Designated Special Concern in May 2005. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2014.

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COSEWIC Status Appraisal Summary

Scientific Name:
Esox americanus vermiculatus
English Name:
Grass Pickerel
French Name:
Brochet vermiculé
 
Range of occurrence in Canada:
Ontario, Québec

Current COSEWIC Assessment

COSEWIC:
Designated Special Concern in May 2005. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2014.

Evidence

Wildlife species:
 
Change in eligibility, taxonomy or designatable units:
no

Explanation:

No new data to support a change or reason to think that there should be any change.

Range

Change in extent of occurrence (EO):
yes
Change in index of area of occupancy (IAO) :
yes
Change in number of known or inferred current locations:
yes
Significant new survey information
yes

Explanation:

The extent of occurrence and index of area occupancy have increased in the last 10 years relative to the 10-year period before the last status report (Fig. 1-3); however, the recent increase is due to increased sampling effort and both values are lower than longer-term historical records. The Grass Pickerel is known from at least 14 Ontario locations and 1 Québec location where each location is defined by the most plausible threat across one or more site occurrences (see Table 1).

Population Information:

Change in number of mature individuals:
unk
Change in population trend:
unk
Change in severity of population fragmentation:
unk
Change in trend in area and/or quality of habitat:
no
Significant new survey information
yes

Explanation:

Preliminary data from DFO sampling efforts in Beaver Creek (a tributary of the Niagara River) suggest a decline in the number of mature Grass Pickerel over the last 5 years, from several thousand in 2009 to hundreds in 2013 (DFO, unpubl. data). Although drain maintenance has occurred in the creek, the decline may be due, in part, to natural drought conditions or other unknown variables, but further analysis is needed to verify the decline (Colm 2013). This potential decline in mature individuals is mirrored in other Ontario populations. Recent targeted sampling efforts by DFO in Twenty Mile Creek (western Lake Ontario) and Jones Creek (St. Lawrence River) resulted in only a few individuals compared to many caught in the 1990s (Royal Ontario Museum, unpubl. data) and 1960s (Crossman 1962), respectively, for each creek. The magnitude of these potential declines, however, is not yet possible to quantify. Sampling as recent as 2009 continues to fail to detect Grass Pickerel at sites of historical occurrence in the Lower Grand River (Crossman and Holm 2005; Beauchamp et al. 2012). Sampling efforts undertaken in the Severn River system (OMNRF), Long Point Bay (DFO, OMNRF), St. Clair drains (DFO), and eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River (DFO, OMNRF, Muskies Canada, Parks Canada) suggest that the subpopulations are small, but there has been little apparent change in the number of mature individuals in the last 10 years. Until 2014, Grass Pickerel had not been detected in Québec since 1988 (DFO, AECOM, unpubl. data). In the summer of 2014, 30 specimens, mainly juveniles, were caught in six southern tributaries to Lake St. Francis (Rivière aux Saumons, Ruisseau Pike, Ruisseau McMillan, Ruissera Fraser/Brunson, Ruisseau MacPherson, and Ruisseau sans nom) (DFO, AECOM, unpubl. data). In 2014, Queen’s University extensively sampled the historical sites in the Severn River watershed and caught only 10 individuals (including six at one site (Grass Lake) (Colm, unpubl. data). Further information is needed from other subpopulations to estimate the number of mature individuals and whether this number is changing relative to historical estimates.

The concept of severe fragmentation (sensu IUCN) was not applied during the last assessment of this species in 2005. Currently, there are insufficient data to quantitatively assess whether or not the Grass Pickerel is severely fragmented, i.e., population sizes are generally unknown and the size at which an individual Grass Pickerel subpopulation becomes not viable is unknown.

Generally, there has been little recent change in the overall amount or quality of habitat as most of the habitat was already degraded, particularly in systems that also function as agricultural drains. The habitat in the Severn River drainage has been highly degraded by cottage development resulting in limited suitable habitat available. Suitable, un-degraded habitat within this drainage now primarily exists in the undeveloped Grass Lake portion of the watershed, which is located about 20 km north of Lake Simcoe (Colm, unpubl. data).

Threats:

Change in nature and/or severity of threats:
yes

Explanation:

In addition to the threats listed in the 2005 status report, two invasive species are potential new threats to Grass Pickerel in Canada. The ecologically similar Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) is native only to Québec in Canada, but appears to be expanding into the range of the Grass Pickerel in Ontario, probably from populations in adjacent portions of New York State (Hoyle and Lake 2011). Since 2009, 14 verified Chain Pickerel specimens have been caught in eastern Lake Ontario. It is thought that climate change may facilitate its further expansion into Ontario from waterways in New York (Mandrak 1989; Hoyle and Lake 2011). The larger Chain Pickerel could be a competitor for (or even predator of) the Grass Pickerel, as it tends to inhabit the same types of habitats (i.e. slow-moving, heavily vegetated, warm-water streams). Although the ranges of the Chain Pickerel and Grass Pickerel overlap in parts of the USA (Page and Burr 2011), little has been reported on their interactions. Chain Pickerel is known to be invasive where it has been introduced in eastern Canada (Connell et al. 2002). An invasive plant species, the European Common Reed (Phragmites australis australis) forms dense monotypic stands and is a superior competitor relative to native plant species (Gilbert and Locke 2007). European Common Reed is found in high abundance in Lake Erie wetlands and is not only reducing the native plant diversity but also, in high density stands, possibly also reducing the amount of available habitat for Grass Pickerel. Under climate change, impacts such as increases in water and air temperatures, changes (decreases) in water levels, shortening of the duration of ice cover, increases in the frequency of extreme weather events, emergence of diseases, and shifts in predator-prey dynamics may negatively impact native fishes (Lemmen and Warren 2004). Based on an evaluation of the effects of climate change on the habitat of coastal wetland fishes in the Great Lakes, Doka et al. (2006) concluded that Grass Pickerel populations in such habitats were highly vulnerable to climate change.

Urbanization was identified as a threat in the 2005 report, which should now include cottage development, particularly in the Severn River drainage (Colm, unpubl. data).

Protection

Change in effective protection:
yes

Explanation:

Grass Pickerel is not valued as a commercial or recreational fish species, or one of particular interest for Aboriginal fisheries; therefore, with recent changes to the federal Fisheries Act taking effect, it will lose some of the protection afforded to it and its habitat.

In Québec, the Grass Pickerel is now on the Liste des espèces susceptibles d’être désignées menacées ou vulnérables (list of wildlife species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable). This list is produced according to the Loi sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables (RLRQ, c E-12.01) (LEMV) (Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species) (CQLR, c E-12.01). Essentially preventive in nature, the list of species liable to be designated as threatened or vulnerable is an administrative and educational device designed to slow or even reverse the process of declines in abundance of species at risk. The species appearing in the list will be the subject of particular attention in the case of any project subject to assessment by environmental authorities under sections 22 and 31.1 of the Québec Environment Quality Act. The directives that are communicated to the promoters of these projects will take listed species into account.

Rescue Effect:

Change in evidence of rescue effect:
no

Explanation:

Rescue from bordering states of the USA is still unlikely, but possible. There has been no apparent change in conservation status in the USA: (New Jersey (SNR), West Virginia (S1S2)) (Nature Serve 2013).

Quantitative Analysis:

Change in estimated probability of extirpation:
unk

Explanation:

Data not available.

Summary and Additional Considerations: [e.g., recovery efforts]  

Recent finds of Grass Pickerel in Québec are encouraging, but occurrences are sporadic despite targeted sampling in the historical location. There is evidence to suggest declines of mature individuals in some Ontario populations (Beaver Creek, Jones Creek, Twenty Mile Creek; DFO sampling efforts); populations in the St. Clair drains and most coastal regions of lakes Erie and Ontario and the St. Lawrence River appear to be at least stable. Grass Pickerel was recently caught in the lower Niagara River for the first time in October 2014 (DFO, unpubl. data). Other populations have not been sampled recently so population size and trends cannot be estimated. New likely threats to the Grass Pickerel, include two invasive species, Chain Pickerel and Phragmites, and climate change. Recent efforts such as the drain maintenance best practices guide (Coker et al. 2010) described below, however, may help to mitigate some of the previously known threats to Grass Pickerel and its habitat (see below).

Recovery efforts since 2005:

A DFO management plan was developed for Grass Pickerel in 2012 with the main goal to prevent this species of Special Concern from becoming Threatened or Endangered. Specific habitat requirements are outlined, as are threats to the species and its habitat, and actions to be taken (Beauchamp et al. 2012).

In 2010, a science advice guide was published through DFO to help mitigate the effects of drain maintenance on Grass Pickerel (Coker et al. 2010). The following topics were addressed: direct destruction and alteration of habitat; pollution and degradation of water quality; siltation of wetlands and watercourses; low water levels; and diversion of cold or cool water into Grass Pickerel habitat. The mechanisms and potential impacts of these issues were discussed, followed by suggestions for alternative practices and mitigation.

Since 2007, at least 16 projects with Grass Pickerel as one of the target species have been funded through the Ontario OMNRF SAR Stewardship Fund. These projects have focused on protecting communities with species at risk by enhancing habitat (from riparian zones to water quality), monitoring, and providing education and community outreach (K. Jaxa-Debicki, OMNRF, pers. comm.).

Some populations of Grass Pickerel may have benefited indirectly from conservation efforts targeting higher priority, co-existing species funded through the Federal Habitat Stewardship Fund, but there are as yet no empirical data to evaluate the potential effects of these projects (S. Dunn, DFO, pers. comm.).

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Acknowledgements:

DFO Ontario: Lynn Bouvier, Andrew Doolittle, Shelly Dunn, Bill Glass, Shawn Staton

DFO Quebec: Alain Kemp (c/o Jacinthe Beauchamp)

COSEWIC Secretariat: Neil Jones, Sonia Schnobb

CMN: Sylvie Laframboise (c/o Dr. Robert Anderson)

Parks Canada: Valerie Minelga, Josh Van Wieren (c/o Dr. Patrick Nantel)

CWS Ontario: Greg Grabas (c/o Rich Russell)

CWS Québec: Gilles Falardeau (c/o François Fournier)

OMNRF: Sarah Hogg (c/o Vivian Brownell), Kim Jaxa-Debicki, Colin Lake, Tom MacDougall, Kurt Oldenburg, Steve Scholten, Anne Yagi

Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP): Marc-Antoine Couillard (c/o Isabelle Gauthier); ROM: Erling Holm; Queen’s University: John Casselman, Bruce Tufts

Grand River CA: Crystal Allan

Long Point Region CA: Paul Gagnon

Quinte Conservation: Brad McNevin; Raisin Region CA: Brendan Jacobs; South Nation Conservation: Naomi Langlois-Anderson (c/o Nick Mandrak); St. Clair Region CA: Erin Carroll

Special thanks to Andrew Doolittle and Lynn Bouvier of DFO for the production of EO and IAO maps.

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Information sources:

AECOM. 2013. Inventaire et caractérisation des habitats utilisés par le brochet vermiculé et le méné d’herbe. Présenté à Pêches et Océans Canada. 19 pages et annexes.

AECOM. 2013. Inventaire et caractérisation des habitats utilisés au printemps par le brochet vermiculé dans l’aire de répartition historique du fleuve Saint-Laurent et ses affluents. Présenté à Pêches et Océans Canada. 32 pages et annexes.

Algonquin to Adirondacks Conservaton Association. 2008. Gananoque River Watershed Community Stewardship Project: Phase 1. [http://www.a2alink.org/our-work.html]

Beauchamp, J., A.L. Boyko, S. Dunn, D. Hardy, P.L. Jarvis, and S.K. Staton. 2012. Management plan for the Grass Pickerel ( Esox americanus vermiculatus) in

Canada. Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vii + 47 pp.

Colm, J.E. 2013. Grass Pickerel in Beaver Creek 2009-2013. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Unpublished)

Coker, G.A., D.L. Ming, and N.E. Mandrak. 2010. Review considerations and mitigation guide for habitat of the Grass Pickerel ( Esox americanus vermiculatus).

Canadian Manuscript Report Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2941: vi + 18 pp.

Connell, C.B., B.L. Dubee, and P.J. Cronin. 2002. Using rotenone to eradicate chain pickerel, Esox niger, from Despres Lake, New Brunswick, Canada. Management report. New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy; Fisheries Program.

Crossman, E.J. 1962a. The grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus LeSueur in Canada. Royal Ontario Museum Life Sciences Division Contributions 55: 29 pp.

Crossman, E.J., and E. Holm. 2005. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Grass Pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 27 pp. (www.sararegistry.gc.ca/status/status_e.cfm).

Doka. S., C. Bakelaar, and L. Bouvier. 2006. Chapter 6. Coastal wetland fish community assessment of climate change in the lower Great Lakes. pp. 101-128. In. L. Mortsch, J. Ingram, A. Hebb, and S. Doka (eds.), Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Communities: Vulnerability to Climate Change and Response to Adaptation Strategies, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Toronto, ON.

Gilbert, J.M., and B. Locke. 2007. Restoring Rondeau Bay’s Ecological Integrity. A report funded by: The Lake Erie Management Unit, OMNR, the Canada/Ontario Agreement and the Lake Erie Habitat Restoration Section, Environment Canada. 40 pp.

Hoyle, J.A. and C. Lake. 2011. First occurrence of Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) in Ontario: possible range expansion from New York waters of eastern Lake Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist 125(1): 16–21.

Killins, K. 2008. A management plan for the Old Ausable Channel watershed. Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority.
Lemmen, D.S., and F.J. Warren. 2004. Climate change impacts and adaptation: A Canadian perspective. Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Natural Resources Canada. 174 pp.

Nature Serve. 2013. An Online Encyclopedia of Life: Esox americanus vermiculatus. Nature Serve Explorer. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/servlet/NatureServe?searchName=Esox%20americanus (accessed November 20, 2013)

Oldenburg, K. and J. Gilbert, J. 2013. An assessment of the Nearshore Fish Community of Long Point Bay. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Erie Management Unit. 22 pp. Appendix.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, New York.

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Technical Summary

Scientific Name:
Esox americanus vermiculatus
English Name:
Grass Pickerel
French Name:
Brochet vermiculé
 
Range of occurrence:
Ontario, Québec

Demographic Information

  • Generation time (usually average age of parents in the population; indicate if another method of estimating generation time indicated in the IUCN guidelines(2011) is being used).

    • 3-4 yrs
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of mature individuals?

    It is likely that the number of mature individuals has declined and continues to decline in some populations, but no quantification of these potential declines is possible.

    • Perhaps
  • Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within [5 years or 2 generations]

    Not enough information available at this time.

    • Unknown
  • [Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the last [10 years, or 3 generations].

    There may have been a decline in Québec because, until the summer of 2014, no individuals had been detected since 1988. The detections in 2014 were only in one (Lake St. Francis) of two areas (the other being Lac St-Louis) of historical occurrence in Québec. There was likely a decline in some Ontario subpopulations over the last 10 years (Beaver Creek, Twenty Mile Creek, Jones Creek).

    • Unknown (Observed or inferred for some subpopulations)
  • [Projected or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over the next [10 years, or 3 generations].

    Not enough information available.

    • Unknown
  • [Observed, estimated, inferred or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over any [10 years, or 3 generations] period, over a time period including both the past and the future.

    Not enough information available.

    • Unknown
  • Are the causes of the decline clearly reversible and understood and ceased?

    Although many of the causes of historical declines are not reversible, they may be preventable in the future, thereby making rescue attempts feasible. In Ontario, causes of historical decline and threats to Grass Pickerel and its habitat are relatively well understood, and are generally centred on agricultural drain maintenance practices. These problems have not ceased, although mitigation efforts to reduce the impacts from drain maintenance are being put in place in some southern Ontario locations.

    Similarly, it is thought that the main cause of decline in Québec is urbanization and the resulting loss of aquatic and riparian vegetation and elevated turbidity (AECOM, 2013). This is not likely to be reversible, but could be mitigated in the future.

    • NA, no conclusive evidence of recent decline across the range
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals?

    Data have not been collected consistently enough across subpopulations, but it seems unlikely given the data that are available.

    The most extensive targeted sampling is that in Beaver Creek led by DFO. A 5-year study was conducted and preliminary data suggest there may have been a decline in the number of mature individuals throughout the last 3 years of the study, but it is unclear whether this could be within the natural range of variation.

    Data from regular broad-scale sampling in eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River (efforts from MNR, Muskies Canada, and 1000 Islands National Park) suggest that the number of mature individuals has remained relatively constant over the last 10 years.

    • Unlikely

Extent and Occupancy Information

  • Estimated extent of occurrence

    Note that 2004-2013 value is based on verified records of Grass Pickerel during that time period.

    Note: the “pre-2004’ estimate includes records from 1994-2003 (most recent 10 years) and all previous records.

    *86,846 km2 (2004-2014)
    61,967 km2 (1994-2003)
    91,768 km2 (pre 2004)

    • ~86,846.4 km2
  • Index of area of occupancy (IAO, 2 x 2 km2 grid values)

    It should be noted that the area of occupancy of 683km² reported in the 2005 status report was likely not calculated using a 2x2 grid.

    Also, the 2004-2014 value is based on verified records of Grass Pickerel during that time period. Note: the “pre-2004’ estimate includes records from 1994-2003 (most recent 10 years) and all previous records.

    427 km2 (2004-2014)
    280 km2 (1994-2003)
    558 km2 (pre-2004)

    • ~427 km2
  • Is the population “severely fragmented” i.e., >50% of its total area of occupancy is in habitat patches that are (a) smaller than would be required to support a viable population, and (b) separated from other habitat patches by a large distance?

    The last status report suggested that the subpopulations in 9 out of 10 sites were significantly isolated from one another. Although very few Grass Pickerel have been caught recently in Québec, that location is at the eastern end of the range in Canada, and thus no further fragmentation is occurring. There has been no significant change in distribution of locations in Ontario.

    • No
  • Number of locations* (use plausible range to reflect uncertainty)

    Historically, there were nine Ontario locations and one Québec location. Number of locations is now slightly higher owing to a new understanding of the meaning of the term “locations”.

    • 15
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in extent of occurrence?

    An increase was observed owing to increased sampling efforts probably not actual population expansion

    • No
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in index of area of occupancy?

    An increase was observed likely as a result of increased sampling efforts probably not actual range expansion.

    • No
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of subpopulations?

    An increase was observed likely as a result of increased sampling efforts probably not actual range expansion.

    • No
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of locations*?

    Fish from the Québec occurrences (one location) have only been observed sporadically since 1988; however, the occurrences (at least 14 locations) in Ontario seem relatively stable.

    • No
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in quality of habitat?

    With recent attempts to mitigate impacts from drain maintenance on Grass Pickerel habitat, it is unlikely that there will be further decline in area, extent of, or quality of habitat in areas affected by agriculture. Habitat area, however, will likely decline in Lake Erie coastal wetlands as the invasive Phragmites transforms aquatic habitat into semi-aquatic habitat not suitable for Grass Pickerel.

    • Probably
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of subpopulations?

    There are no data to suggest this.

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations*?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy?

    • No

Number of Mature Individuals (at each location)

  • Location (most plausible threat) N Mature Individuals

    Severn River Drainage (cottage development [excluding Grass Lake])

    • Unknown

    Grass Lake (no apparent threat)

    • Unknown

    Old Ausable Channel (residential development)

    • Unknown

    Lower Grand River (drain maintenance invasive plants)

    • Unknown

    Lake St. Clair area; Walpole Island, Little Bear Creek: wetland draining in Bear Creek)

    • Unknown

    Lake Erie Western Basin, including Point Pelee, Holiday Beach (invasive plants)

    • Unknown

    Long Point (invasive plants)

    • Unknown

    Upper Niagara River Drainage (urbanization)

    • several 1000

    Lower Niagara River main stem (pollution and wetland loss)

    • Unknown

    Twenty Mile Creek (urbanization)

    • Unknown

    Upper Welland River (urbanization)

    • Unknown

    Eastern Lake Ontario: no likely threat

    • Unknown

    Upper St. Lawrence River (above fall line) - Jones Creek and upper Gananoque River (no identified threat)

    • Unknown

    Upper St. Lawrence River (below fall line; urbanization, agriculture)

    • Unknown

    Lake St. Francis to Lac St-Louis: (habitat modification and dams)

    • Unknown

    Total

    • Unknown

Quantitative Analysis

  • Probability of extinction in the wild is at least [20% within 20 years or 5 generations, or 10% within 100 years].

    Not enough data available at this time.

    • Unknown

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats)

Threats that remain the same as those in 2005 status report:
  • urbanization and agriculture practices through effects on reduction in flow and
  • channelization and pollution through herbicides and pesticides
  • siltation
  • removal of vegetation
  • low water levels caused by water extraction, and drought
  • diversion of cold or cool water into Grass Pickerel habitat (from Welland Canal into Lyons Creek)
  • destruction and degradation of wetland habitat
Additional threats to consider:
  • potential range expansion of Chain Pickerel into eastern Lake Ontario
  • cottage development, particularly in the Severn drainage
  • Phragmites in Great Lakes coastal wetlands, most notably in Lake Erie
  • climate change

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)

  • Status of outside population(s) most likely to provide immigrants to Canada?

    Status of Grass Pickerel in adjacent states of USA is S1S2 or SNR, of least concern. Globally, the Grass Pickerel is still listed as G5T5, and nationally in the USA it is listed as N3. These codes indicate the species is secure globally and nationally in the USA.

    • New Jersey (SNR)
    • West Virginia (S1S2)
  • Is immigration known or possible?

    The Grass Pickerel is known from tributaries of lakes Erie and Ontario and in the St. Lawrence River on the USA side. Although individuals would be unlikely to travel such distances, it is possible in perhaps 5 of the 15 locations (e.g., Upper St. Lawrence River).

    • Yes
  • Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?

    Populations on the USA side of the Great Lakes likely share similar adaptations to those on the Canadian side.

    • Yes
  • Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in the SLE?

    Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?

    • Yes
  • Is rescue from outside populations likely?

    • Probably not

Data-Sensitive Species

  • Is this a data-sensitive species?
    • No

Status History

  • COSEWIC: Designated Special Concern in May 2005. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2014.

Status and Reasons for Designation:

Status:
Special Concern
Alpha-numeric code:
Not Applicable
Reasons for designation:
This fish is known from relatively few locations from southern Lake Huron to western Québec. The subspecies has a scattered distribution in Canada and is not abundant in any area. The subspecies could become threatened if habitat quality continues to decline owing to changes in land use and invasive species.

Applicability of Criteria

Criterion A (Decline in Total Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable. Criteria cannot be assessed owing to lack of appropriate data.
Criterion B (Small Distribution Range and Decline or Fluctuation):
Meets Threatened B2 as IAO (427 km2) is less than 500 km2, but number of locations (15) exceeds threshold (10) and there is no evidence of continuing decline in number of mature individuals, or in extent or quality of habitat across the range.
Criterion C (Small and Declining Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable. Criteria cannot be assessed owing to lack of relevant data.
Criterion D (Very Small or Restricted Population):
Not applicable, all thresholds exceeded.
Criterion E(Quantitative Analysis):
Not applicable. Criteria cannot be assessed owing to lack of relevant data.

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Additional Sources of Information:

AECOM. 2013. Inventaire et caractérisation des habitats utilisés au printemps par le brochet vermiculé dans l’aire de répartition historique du fleuve Saint-Laurent et ses affluents. Présenté à Pêches et Océans Canada. 32 pages et annexes.

Beauchamp, J., A.L. Boyko, S. Dunn, D. Hardy, P.L. Jarvis, and S.K. Staton. 2012. Management plan for the Grass Pickerel ( Esox americanus vermiculatus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vii + 47 pp.

Colm, J.E. 2013. Grass Pickerel in Beaver Creek 2009-2013. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Unpublished)

Coker, G.A., D.L. Ming, and N.E. Mandrak. 2010. Review considerations and mitigation guide for habitat of the Grass Pickerel ( Esox americanus vermiculatus). Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2941: vi + 18 pp.

Crossman, E.J. 1962a. The grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus LeSueur in Canada. Royal Ontario Museum Life Sciences Division Contributions 55: 29 pp.

Crossman, E.J., and E. Holm. 2005. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Grass Pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 27 pp. (www.sararegistry.gc.ca/status/status_e.cfm).

Hoyle, J.A., and C. Lake. 2011. First occurrence of Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) in Ontario: possible range expansion from New York waters of eastern Lake Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist 125(1): 16–21. Nature Serve. 2013. An Online Encyclopedia of Life: Esox americanus vermiculatus.

Nature Serve Explorer. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/servlet/NatureServe?searchName=Esox%20americanus (accessed November 20, 2013)

Oldenburg, K., and J. Gilbert. 2013. An assessment of the Nearshore Fish Community of Long Point Bay. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Erie Management Unit. 22 pp. Appendix.

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Figure 1. Current distribution of Grass Pickerel in Canada. Note that the summer 2014 captures of Grass Pickerel in Lake St. Francis, Québec, and the lower Niagara River, Ontario, are not shown on the map (but see Fig. 2 and 3).
Map showing the current distribution of Grass Pickerel.
Long description for Figure 1

Map showing the current distribution of Grass Pickerel in southern Ontario and Quebec. Symbols indicate occurrences by year range: 2004 to 2013, 1994 to 2003, and before 1994. (Note: Areas where Grass Pickerel were captured in summer 2014 in Lake St. Francis, Quebec, and the lower Niagara River, Ontario, are not shown.)

 

Figure 2. Extent of occurrence for Grass Pickerel in Canada.
Map indicating extent of occurrence (EO) for the Grass Pickerel in Canada.
Long description for Figure 2

Map indicating extent of occurrence (EO) for the Grass Pickerel in Canada. Three EOs are shown: 2004 to 2014 (86,846 square kilometres), 1994 to 2003 (61,967 square kilometres), and before 2004 (91,768 square kilometres).

 

Figure 3. Area of occupancy for Grass Pickerel in Canada, 2004-2014.
Map showing area of occupancy for the Grass Pickerel.
Long description for Figure 3

Map showing area of occupancy (427.24 square kilometres) for the Grass Pickerel in Canada for the period 2004 to 2014.

 

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COSEWIC logo

COSEWIC History

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. Species designated at meetings of the full committee are added to the list. On June 5, 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. SARA establishes COSEWIC as an advisory body ensuring that species will continue to be assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process.

COSEWIC Mandate

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on native species for the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, molluscs, vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.

COSEWIC Membership

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three non-government science members and the co-chairs of the species specialist subcommittees and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittee. The Committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.

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Definitions (2014)

Wildlife Species
A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.
Extinct (X)
A wildlife species that no longer exists.
Extirpated (XT)
A wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.
Endangered (E)
A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
Threatened (T)
A wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special Concern (SC)
(Note: Formerly described as “Vulnerable” from 1990 to 1999, or “Rare” prior to 1990.)
A wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Not at Risk (NAR)
(Note: Formerly described as “Not In Any Category”, or “No Designation Required.”)
A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
Data Deficient (DD)
(Note: Formerly described as “Indeterminate” from 1994 to 1999 or “ISIBD” [insufficient scientific information on which to base a designation] prior to 1994. Definition of the [DD] category revised in 2006.)
A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the species’ risk of extinction.

The Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, provides full administrative and financial support to the COSEWIC Secretariat.

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