Species Profile

Upper Great Lakes Kiyi

Scientific Name: Coregonus kiyi kiyi
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2005
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Related Species

Kiyi Non-active Special Concern

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Upper Great Lakes Kiyi

Upper Great Lakes Kiyi  Photo 1



The Kiyi (Coregonus kiyi kiyi) is among the deepest water forms of cisco species found in Canada. It is a member of the Salmonidae family and has the following characteristics: a laterally compressed body with large eyes that comprise 22 to 26 per cent of the head length; a terminal mouth with lower jaw usually extending beyond the upper jaw; is mainly silver in colour with some pink and purple iridescences; has long paired fins; is sexually mature between ages two and five years; and has a typical measurements range between 100 and 200 millimeters, and weights of 10 to 60 grams, but has been recorded in excess of 300 millimeters and 125 grams.


Distribution and Population

The Kiyi is endemic to all of the Laurentian Great Lakes except Lake Erie. The Upper Great Lakes population (Coregonus kiyi kiyi) is believed to currently exist only in Lake Superior. Believed extirpated, it was last recorded in Lake Huron in 1973 and in Lake Michigan in 1974. The Lake Ontario population (Coregonus kiyi orientalis) is considered extinct, last recorded in 1964. Kiyi appears to be widely distributed in the deep waters of the offshore (generally most abundant at depths of 150 meters) making up a significant proportion of the fish community in Lake Superior. They are also found in reduced numbers in the shallow waters of the nearshore. Kiyi move to shallower water depths at night, typically less than 50 meters, in search of their prey.



Little is known about the habitat preferences and life history of the Kiyi. It lives in a clear, cold-water environment at depths ranging from 10 meters to 305 meters, with peak abundances found at depths between 130 to 150 meters. Kiyi have been collected over lake bottoms of clay and mud substrates.



Spawning generally occurs in the late fall at depths between 91 and 168 meters. The age of maturity is between two and five years. The maximum known age for females is 22 years, and 16 for males. The Kiyi is prey for Burbot (Lota lota) and deepwater forms of Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush). Kiyi eggs may also provide a prey source for other fish, including Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). The Kiyi feeds on deepwater crustaceans such as Mysis relicta and Diporeia hoyi. Secondary prey items chironomids, calanoid copepods, clams and Daphnia species.



Commercial overfishing of Kiyi was likely the cause of its decline in lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario. Remaining Kiyi populations in lakes Huron and Ontario likely have competed with, or have been preyed upon by, introduced fish species such as the Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax). Other issues, including degraded water quality (from the continuing pressures of contaminant and nutrient inputs in the Great Lakes) are also ongoing, with likely impacts on Kiyi survival and habitat. Climate change has been identified as a possible factor that could worsen the situation in the future. Lastly, certain pathogens, particularly viral hemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS), have the potential to generate mass mortality in a variety of fish species. Detected in Lake Superior watershed in 2010, future outbreaks of VHS could decimate the remaining Kiyi population.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Kiyi (2005)

    Lake Ontario Kiyi Designated Special Concern in April 1988. Split into two subspecies (Upper Great Lakes kiyi and Lake Ontario kiyi) in May 2005. The Lake Ontario kiyi was designated Extinct in May 2005. Last assessment based on an update status report. ________________________________________________________________ Upper Great Lakes Kiyi Designated Special Concern in April 1988. Split into two subspecies (Upper Great Lakes kiyi and Lake Ontario kiyi) in May 2005. The Upper Great Lakes kiyi was designated Special Concern in May 2005. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Upper Great Lakes Kiyi (2005)

    Currently found only in Lake Superior, the subspecies has been extirpated from lakes Huron and Michigan, as the result of a complex of factors, which included exploitation and introduced exotic species. The extirpation in Lake Huron and Michigan occurred more than three generations in the past. The remaining population in Lake Superior appears to be stable, and supports a small, regulated fishery. Other threats, such as the introduction of exotic species, which impacted populations in the lower lakes do not appear to be important in Lake Superior.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for Kiyi, Upper Great Lakes (Coregonus kiyi kiyi) in Canada (2016)

    In 2005, the Kiyi (Upper Great Lakes) was designated a species of Special Concern in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act in 2007. The COSEWIC designation was based on the loss of the species from Lake Huron (also lost from Lake Michigan in the U.S.), reducing its range to only Lake Superior. It appears that exploitation and introduced invasive species were the principal culprits for its diminished range, while habitat destruction, eutrophication, and toxic discharges may have also played a role. A separate subspecies, formerly resident in Lake Ontario, was designated Extinct by COSEWIC and will not be considered in this management plan.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.