Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar Lepisosteus oculatus Spotted Gar

Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar Lepisosteus oculatus Spotted Gar
Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar
(Lepisosteus oculatus) in Canada
Spotted Gar
2012
About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series
What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?
SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common
national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in
2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are
extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”
What is recovery?
In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline
of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are
removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A
species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been
secured.
What is a recovery strategy?
A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest
or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main
areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.
Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three
federal agencies — Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and
Oceans Canada — under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46
of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery
strategies published in this series.
Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has
to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife
Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically
listed when SARA came into force.
What’s next?
In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide
implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery
strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in
recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the
species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.
The series
This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government
under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as
strategies are updated.
To learn more
To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the
SARA Public Registry.
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar
(Lepisosteus oculatus) in Canada
2012
Recommended citation:
Staton, S.K., A.L. Boyko, S.E. Dunn, and M. Burridge. 2012. Recovery strategy for
the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery
Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vii + 57 p.
Additional copies:
Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry
Cover illustration: © Joseph R. Tomelleri
Également disponible en français sous le titre
«Programme de rétablissement du lépisosté tacheté (Lepisosteus oculatus) au Canada
(proposé)»
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries
and Oceans, 2012. All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-1-100-21127-5
Catalogue no. En3-4/146-2012E-PDF
Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate
credit to the source.
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
PREFACE
The Spotted Gar is a freshwater fish and is under the responsibility of the federal
government. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is a “competent minister” for aquatic
species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Since Spotted Gar has been located in
Point Pelee National Park of Canada administered by Parks Canada Agency, the
Minister of the Environment is also a “competent minister” under SARA. SARA, Section
37, requires the competent ministers to prepare recovery strategies for listed Extirpated,
Endangered and Threatened species. The Spotted Gar was listed as Threatened under
SARA in May 2005. The development of this recovery strategy was led by Fisheries
and Oceans Canada – Central and Arctic Region in cooperation and consultation with
many individuals, organizations and government agencies, as indicated below. The
strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41). It
was developed in cooperation or consultation with the following (see Appendix 1 for a
full record of consultations), as appropriate:
Jurisdictions - Province of Ontario, Environment Canada (CWS), Parks Canada Agency;
Environmental non-government groups – Essex Region Conservation Authority,
University of Windsor, Trent University; Aboriginal organizations.
Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of
different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this
strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada
Agency or any other party alone. This strategy provides advice to jurisdictions and
organizations that may be involved or wish to become involved in the recovery of the
species. In accordance with the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk,
the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment invite all
responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada and
Parks Canada Agency in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the
Spotted Gar and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and
Parks Canada Agency will support implementation of this strategy to the extent
possible, given available resources and their responsibility for species at risk
conservation.
The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on
the best available knowledge and are subject to modifications as new information
becomes available. The competent ministers will report on progress within five years of
the publication of this document.
This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details
on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of this species. The
competent ministers will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians
interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
RESPONSIBLE JURISDICTIONS
Under the Species at Risk Act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the
competent minister for all Spotted Gar except those occurring in or on lands
administered by the Parks Canada Agency. The Minister of the Environment,
responsible for the Parks Canada Agency, is the competent minister for individuals
located within Point Pelee National Park.
AUTHORS
This document was prepared by Shawn K. Staton, Amy L. Boyko, Shelly E. Dunn, and
Mary Burridge on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency would like to thank the
following organizations for their support of the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team
in the development of the Spotted Gar recovery strategy: Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources, Essex Region Conservation Authority, University of Windsor and Trent
University. The authors would like to thank Erling Holm of the Royal Ontario Museum
for the use of photographs showing identification features. The authors would also like
to thank Sandy Dobbyn for assisting with critical habitat identification in Rondeau
Provincial Park. Mapping was produced by Carolyn Bakelaar (GIS analyst, DFO) and
Marie Archambault (Critical Habitat Assistant, Parks Canada Agency - Point Pelee
National Park).
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy,
Plan and Program Proposals, the purpose of a Strategic Environmental Assessment
(SEA) is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public
policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision
making.
Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity. However, it is
recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond
the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly
incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on
possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.
This recovery strategy will benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the
Spotted Gar. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on
other species was considered. In cases where critical habitats of multiple species
occur, a multi-species approach to the management of habitat is required to maximize
benefit to co-occurring species at risk. Such an approach recognizes that negative
impacts to some species and their habitats may result from habitat management
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
practices aimed at achieving an overall net benefit to the ecosystem and the species at
risk that it supports. The SEA concluded that a multi-species approach will benefit the
environment overall and minimize any adverse effects (See: Description of the Species’
Habitat and Biological Needs, Ecological Role, and Limiting Factors; Effects on Other
Species; and Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives.).
RESIDENCE
SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area
or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or
part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or
hibernating” [SARA S2(1)].
The residence concept is interpreted by DFO as being constructed by the organism. In
this context, Spotted Gar do not construct residences during their life cycle and
therefore the concept does not apply (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Spotted Gar is a relatively large (up to 760 mm in total length), heavily armoured,
predatory species with a long, narrow body and elongated snout with many sharp teeth.
The back and upper sides are olive green to velvety brown above the lateral line, dull
silvery below, and adults have brown spots on the snout, head, body and fins. The
Spotted Gar is distinguished from the more common Longnose Gar by its shorter, wider
snout. Although globally secure, the Spotted Gar is at the northern extent of its range in
southern Ontario and was never common. Extant populations occur within three
shallow, heavily vegetated coastal wetlands of Lake Erie (Long Point Bay, Point Pelee
National Park and Rondeau Bay). Additionally, new records exist for East Lake and
Hamilton Harbour (Lake Ontario drainage); however, it is not known whether
reproducing populations exist at these locations as only one individual has been
confirmed from each location (in 2007 and 2010, respectively). Historic records of
Spotted Gar include single specimens from both Lake St. Clair and the Bay of Quinte
(Lake Ontario). Threats to Spotted Gar populations include overall habitat loss (due to
dredging, filling and harbour improvements), sediment and nutrient loading, exotic
species, barriers restricting movement, climate change and possibly fishing pressure
(commercial/recreational incidental harvest).
The Spotted Gar is listed as a Threatened species under the federal Species at Risk
Act. As such, the Act requires that a recovery strategy be developed to identify
approaches required to arrest or reverse the species’ decline. Fisheries and Oceans
Canada and Parks Canada Agency, in cooperation with the government of Ontario,
Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service) and other partners, have developed a
recovery strategy to facilitate the protection and recovery of this species.
The long-term recovery goal (greater than 20 years) of this recovery strategy is to
protect, enhance and maintain Spotted Gar populations within the three coastal
wetlands of Lake Erie, where extant populations occur. The following short/mediumterm recovery objectives will be addressed over a 5-10 year period to assist with
meeting the long-term goal:
i.
ii.
iii.
iv.
v.
vi.
vii.
viii.
Refine population and distribution objectives;
Ensure adequate protection of critical habitat;
Determine long-term population and habitat trends;
Identify threats, evaluate their relative impacts, and implement remedial actions
as required to reduce their effects;
Enhance efficiency of recovery efforts;
Enhance quality and extent of available habitat;
Improve overall awareness and appreciation of the Spotted Gar and the coastal
wetland habitats that support it; and,
Engage landowners, communities and organizations in stewardship actions that
minimize/eliminate identified threats to Spotted Gar and its habitat.
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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The recovery team has identified several approaches necessary to ensure that recovery
objectives for the Spotted Gar are met. These approaches have been organized into
three categories and urgent actions are summarized below:
Research and monitoring:
• Conduct targeted background surveys at current and historical sites as well as
other areas of suitable habitat to determine range, abundance and population
size.
• Establish and implement a monitoring program to assess changes in population
and habitat characteristics.
• Determine home range size and seasonal habitat needs of each Spotted Gar lifestage.
• Confirm the significance of all threat factors impacting populations.
• Evaluate the degree of connectivity (hydrologic, ecological and genetic) between
Spotted Gar populations.
Management and coordination:
• Coordinate with recovery teams and stewardship groups, including the EssexErie Recovery Team (EERT) and other relevant groups to share knowledge and
implement recovery actions.
• Encourage municipalities and other land management groups to protect habitats
that are important to Spotted Gar within their jurisdiction (e.g., within Official
Plans).
Stewardship, outreach and awareness:
• Promote basin-wide stewardship efforts among landowners within watersheds of
the occupied coastal wetlands in Lake Erie.
• Facilitate, through existing stewardship initiatives, the implementation of Best
Management Practices and encourage the completion and implementation of
Environmental Farm Plans and Nutrient Management Plans.
Partial critical habitat descriptions have been developed for Spotted Gar populations in
Point Pelee National Park, Long Point Bay/Big Creek National Wildlife Area and
Rondeau Bay. A schedule of studies has been developed that outlines necessary steps
to further refine the critical habitat descriptions across the species’ range. The schedule
of studies will also apply to new locations should established populations be confirmed.
A dual approach to recovery implementation will be taken that combines a multi-species
approach complemented by a single-species focus. This will be accomplished through
coordinated efforts with relevant groups (e.g., conservation authorities), as well as the
EERT and its associated Recovery Implementation Groups. The recovery strategy will
be supported by one or more action plans that will be developed within five years of the
final strategy being posted on the public registry. The success of recovery actions in
meeting recovery objectives will be evaluated through the performance measures
provided. The entire recovery strategy will be reported on every five years to evaluate
progress and to incorporate new information.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE ........................................................................................................................ i
RESPONSIBLE JURISDICTIONS ...................................................................................ii
AUTHORS........................................................................................................................ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...................................................................................................ii
STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ...........................................................ii
RESIDENCE ...................................................................................................................iii
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.................................................................................................iv
1.
BACKGROUND ..................................................................................................... 1
1.1 Species assessment information from COSEWIC.............................................. 1
1.2 Description.......................................................................................................... 1
1.3 Populations and distribution................................................................................ 3
1.4 Needs of the Spotted Gar ................................................................................... 8
1.4.1 Habitat and biological needs ...................................................................... 8
1.4.2 Ecological role............................................................................................ 9
1.4.3 Limiting factors ......................................................................................... 10
1.5 Threats ............................................................................................................. 10
1.5.1 Threat classification ................................................................................. 10
1.5.2 Description of threats ............................................................................... 11
1.6 Actions already completed or underway ........................................................... 15
1.7 Knowledge gaps ............................................................................................... 17
2.
RECOVERY ......................................................................................................... 18
2.1 Recovery feasibility........................................................................................... 18
2.2 Recovery goal................................................................................................... 19
2.3 Population and distribution objective(s) ............................................................ 19
2.4 Recovery objectives ......................................................................................... 19
2.5 Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives .................................. 19
2.5.1 Recovery planning ................................................................................... 19
2.6 Performance measures .................................................................................... 26
2.7 Critical habitat................................................................................................... 27
2.7.1 Identification of the Spotted Gar’s critical habitat ..................................... 27
2.7.2 Information and methods used to identify critical habitat.......................... 28
2.7.3 Identification of critical habitat: biophysical functions, features and their
attributes .................................................................................................. 30
2.7.4 Identification of critical habitat: geospatial ................................................ 31
2.7.4.1. Population Viability ........................................................................... 38
2.7.5 Schedule of studies to identify/refine critical habitat................................. 38
2.7.6 Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat ....... 40
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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2.8 Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection .......................... 45
2.9 Effects on other species ................................................................................... 46
2.10
Recommended approach for recovery implementation............................ 46
2.11
Statement on action plans........................................................................ 47
3.
REFERENCES..................................................................................................... 47
4.
RECOVERY TEAM MEMBERS ........................................................................... 51
Appendix 1. Record of Cooperation and Consultation .................................................. 52
Appendix 2. Background data summary and rationale for areas identified as critical
habitat ........................................................................................................................... 54
Appendix 3. Aquatic Vegetation Removal - Guidelines ................................................. 57
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Global, national and sub-national heritage status ranks for the Spotted Gar .... 4
Table 2. Threat classification table ................................................................................ 11
Table 3. Summary of recent fish surveys in areas of Spotted Gar occurrence.............. 17
Table 4. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – research and monitoring .............. 20
Table 5. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – management and coordination .... 23
Table 6. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – stewardship, outreach and
awareness.............................................................................................................. 24
Table 7. Performance measures ................................................................................... 27
Table 8. Essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for each life-stage
of the Spotted Gar* ................................................................................................ 30
Table 9. Coordinates locating the boundaries within which critical habitat is found for the
Spotted Gar at three locations. .............................................................................. 32
Table 10. Comparison of the area within which critical habitat has been identified (km2)
for each Spotted Gar population, relative to the estimated minimum area for
population viability (MAPV)* ................................................................................... 38
Table 11. Schedule of studies to identify/refine critical habitat for the Spotted Gar....... 39
Table 12. Human activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for Spotted
Gar ......................................................................................................................... 41
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. The Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus).......................................................... 2
Figure 2. Differences in snout length and width can be used to distinguish Spotted Gar
(bottom) from Longnose Gar.................................................................................... 2
Figure 3. The Spotted Gar (left) can be distinguished from the Florida Gar by the
presence of bony plates on the isthmus................................................................... 3
Figure 4. Global distribution of the Spotted Gar. ............................................................. 4
Figure 5. Canadian distribution of the Spotted Gar ......................................................... 7
Figure 6. Boundaries within which critical habitat for the Spotted Gar is found in Point
Pelee National Park ............................................................................................... 33
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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Figure 7. Boundaries within which critical habitat of the Spotted Gar is found in Long
Point Bay/Big Creek NWA...................................................................................... 35
Figure 8. Boundaries within which critical habitat of the Spotted Gar is found in Rondeau
Bay......................................................................................................................... 37
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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1.
BACKGROUND
1.1
Species assessment information from COSEWIC
Common name: Spotted Gar
Scientific name: Lepisosteus oculatus (Winchell, 1864)
COSEWIC status: Threatened (2005)
Reason for designation: This species has a very limited range in Canada where it is
known only from three coastal wetlands in Lake Erie. Although its distribution is likely
limited by temperature, some of the shallow vegetated habitats that it requires for all
life stages are subject to the impacts of siltation, dredging, filling, aquatic vegetation
removal and harbour improvements.
Canadian occurrence: Ontario
COSEWIC status history: Designated Special Concern in April 1983. Status reexamined and confirmed in April 1994. Status re-examined and designated
Threatened in November 2000, and in May 2005. Last assessment based on an
update status report.
1.2
Description
Gars are readily distinguished from other fish species by their long, narrow, armoured
bodies and long snouts. The body of the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus Winchell,
1864) is heavily armoured with non-overlapping, bony ganoid scales and the snout and
jaws are elongated into a relatively broad beak with many sharp teeth (Figure 1). The
length of the Spotted Gar’s snout is approximately 40-80% of the head length; the least
width is approximately 10-16% of snout length (COSEWIC 2005). The total length (TL)
of this species is typically 200 – 600 mm, but it can reach lengths and weights of 1120
mm TL and 2700 g, respectively (Coker et al. 2001). In Canada, the largest specimen
recorded measured 767 mm TL and was caught in Rondeau Bay in 2007 (N.E.
Mandrak, Fisheries and Oceans Canada [DFO], pers. comm. 2007). The Spotted Gar
has a short, deep, caudal peduncle (i.e., point of attachment between the body and the
tail). The vertebral column is curved upward in the tail, extending a short way into the
upper lobe of the rounded tail. The back and upper sides are olive-green to velvety
brown above the lateral line and the colouration is dull silvery below. It has a lateral
band with a narrow reddish stripe. Adults have brown spots on the snout, head, body
and fins. Juveniles have a fleshy extension of the spine above the upper edge of the
tail and are brightly coloured with wide dark brown stripes on the back, sides and belly.
The Spotted Gar is distinguished from the only other native gar species found in
Canada, the Longnose Gar (L. osseus), by its shorter, wider snout and a shorter,
deeper caudal peduncle (Scott and Crossman 1998) (Figure 2). Since both species are
spotted, this characteristic should not be used to distinguish between these two species.
Florida Gar (L. platyrhincus) have been found in the Great Lakes basin as a result of
presumed aquaria releases. Florida Gar are very similar to Spotted Gar in appearance,
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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but lack the bony, translucent plates on the isthmus between gill openings found on the
Spotted Gar (Figure 3) (COSEWIC 2005).
© Joseph R. Tomelleri.
Figure 1. The Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)
Figure 2. Differences in snout length and width can be used to distinguish Spotted Gar
(bottom) from Longnose Gar
(Collected in Rondeau Bay, 2002 and modified from COSEWIC 2005).
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Figure 3. The Spotted Gar (left) can be distinguished from the Florida Gar by the
presence of bony plates on the isthmus. Photo by E. Holm, Royal Ontario Museum.
1.3
Populations and distribution
Global range and status: The Spotted Gar is only found in North America where it has
a wide, but disjunct distribution in the Mississippi, Great Lakes and Gulf Coast
drainages of eastern North America, occurring in 18 states and Ontario (Figure 4). In
the Great Lakes drainage, the Spotted Gar occurs in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario
and Pennsylvania (Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 1991). In the Mississippi drainage, it
is found from Illinois in the north to Alabama and Texas in the south and from
Tennessee and Florida in the east to Oklahoma in the west (Lee et al. 1980, Page and
Burr 1991). The species is considered globally secure (G5) but is critically imperilled
(S1) in Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and extirpated in New Mexico (NatureServe
2012) (Table 1). Less than 1% of the species’ global range is found in Canada.
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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(Modified from Page and Burr (1991))
Figure 4. Global distribution of the Spotted Gar.
Table 1. Global, national and sub-national heritage status ranks for the Spotted Gar
(NatureServe 2012)
Rank level
Rank
G5 (09 Sept.
1996)
N1
N5
Jurisdiction
Sub-national (S)
Canada
S1
U.S.
S5
Ontario
Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Missouri, Tennessee, Texas
Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky,
Oklahoma
Florida
Georgia, Illinois, Michigan
Kansas
New Mexico
Ohio, Pennsylvania
Global (G)
National (N)
S4
SNR
S2S3
S1S2
SX
S1
Canada
United States
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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Canadian range and status: The Spotted Gar is considered imperilled in Canada (N1)
and Ontario (S1) (NatureServe 2012), and is designated as Threatened by the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR; OMNR 2009). The species is listed on Schedule
1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), and under Ontario’s Endangered Species
Act, 2007.
The current range of the Spotted Gar in Canada includes the coastal wetlands of Lake
Erie (Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Bay, Long Point Bay [including Long Point
National Wildlife Area (NWA)] and Big Creek NWA), East Lake (an embayment off Lake
Ontario and south of Sandbanks Provincial Park) and Hamilton Harbour (Figure 5).
Canadian collections have been made sporadically making it difficult to assess
population sizes and trends. The first confirmed captures of Spotted Gar were at Point
Pelee National Park in 1913, at Long Point Bay in 1947 and at Rondeau Bay in 1955.
Other captures recorded by commercial fishermen in 1925 and 1938 were likely also
from Rondeau Bay.
Less than 15 specimens before 2000 have been recorded from these locations in Lake
Erie, with one from Point Pelee National Park, one from Inner Long Point Bay, and 11
from Rondeau Bay. However, since 2000, a total of 730 Spotted Gar have been
captured at these locations, including 546 specimens from Rondeau Bay (2007-2009),
93 specimens from Point Pelee National Park (2009), and eight specimens from Inner
Long Point Bay (B. Glass, University of Windsor [UW], unpublished data).
Spotted Gar have also been detected in two NWAs within the Long Point area: a single
record from 1984 exists for the Long Point Unit (located at the tip of the point) of Long
Point NWA (J. Robinson, Canadian Wildlife Service [CWS], pers. comm. 2009); and, in
2004, two individuals were recorded from Big Creek NWA (L. Bouvier, DFO, pers.
comm. 2010).
Although population sizes are small, and the distribution is limited, the Spotted Gar is
considered stable at Lake Erie locations based on available historical and current data
(extent of occurrence and abundance data) (EERT 2008).
In May 2007, a single specimen was collected by a commercial fisherman in East Lake.
It is believed the same individual was caught multiple times; catches of Spotted Gar
ceased after the specimen was provided to the OMNR (J. Bowlby, OMNR, pers. comm.
2009). Beyond these catches, no other individuals have been captured. Intensive
sampling was conducted in East Lake in 2008, using gear types proven effective at
detecting the species, to verify the presence of a reproducing population; however,
sampling failed to detect Spotted Gar (B. Glass, UW, unpublished data). In addition,
extensive commercial hoop netting in East Lake has not resulted in any further records
of Spotted Gar. Therefore, the reports from a commercial fisherman, potentially of a
single individual, remain the only record(s) for East Lake and it is unlikely that a
reproducing population exists at this location (Bouvier and Mandrak 2010).
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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The first verified record of Spotted Gar within the Lake Ontario drainage was a single
specimen caught in the Bay of Quinte (North Channel) in 1985. Despite extensive
commercial fishing in the area, as well as substantial netting programs conducted by the
OMNR, no additional Spotted Gar have been captured and it is possible that this record
is the result of an introduction due to its highly disjunct nature.
Additional reports existed for Spotted Gar in Hamilton Harbour that had not been
substantiated with voucher specimens until recently, when a single specimen was
captured by the OMNR in 2010 (OMNR, unpublished data). Further sampling is
required to determine whether a reproducing population exists at this location.
A single specimen was captured in 1962 in Lake St. Clair near the mouth of the Thames
River but the species has not been recorded from this area since then, despite relatively
extensive sampling conducted by DFO and OMNR.
There are two records of Spotted Gar collected in the Sydenham River from 1975;
however, one was thought to be a Longnose Gar by a larval fish expert, and the other
lacked a voucher specimen (COSEWIC 2005). Subsequent sampling in 2002 and 2003
by boat electrofishing, fyke netting and seining (N.E. Mandrak, DFO, unpublished data)
in the vicinity of the original records, failed to find any Spotted Gar. Hence the original
records have been deemed questionable.
Other specimens, reported as Spotted Gar in southwestern Ontario, have either been
re-identified as Longnose Gar or voucher specimens were not retained by the collector
and identification is, therefore, unconfirmed (COSEWIC 2005).
The distribution of Spotted Gar has always been limited in Canadian waters and,
although extensive sampling has recently occurred throughout southwestern Ontario
(due to a recent focus on species at risk), no other localities have been recorded for the
Spotted Gar. For example, 20 sites at the St. Clair NWA were sampled by DFO in 2005
using fyke nets (a total of 480 hours of effort were expended) and no Spotted Gar were
detected (Mandrak et al. 2006a). Populations within the Bay of Quinte and Lake St.
Clair (if anomalous records are representative of historic populations), are presumed to
be extirpated, based on recent sampling of suitable habitats at these locations
(COSEWIC 2005).
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
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Figure 5. Canadian distribution of the Spotted Gar
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
1.4
2012
Needs of the Spotted Gar
1.4.1 Habitat and biological needs
Spawn to embryonic (yolk-sac) stage: Spawning occurs in the spring (May and
June), when water temperatures reach 21°-26°C, in shallow water (less than 1 m)
containing dense aquatic vegetation, such as marshes and flooded riparian areas
(Goodyear et al. 1982, Scott and Crossman 1998, Snedden et al. 1999, CudmoreVokey and Minns 2002). In Rondeau Bay, Spotted Gar were observed spawning over
aquatic vegetation beds that included milfoil (Myriophyllum sp.) and curly pondweed
(Potamogeton crispus) (B. Glass, UW, pers. comm. 2009). The demersal and adhesive
fertilized eggs attach to aquatic vegetation and debris in gelatinous masses (Coker et
al. 2001, COSEWIC 2005) and hatch within one week (Cudmore-Vokey and Minns
2002). Spotted Gar embryos have an adhesive organ on their snout (Simon and Wallus
1989) and, although capable of swimming, they often hang vertically from aquatic
vegetation and other objects. The yolk-sac is absorbed at approximately 17 mm TL or
greater – based on a growth rate of 1.3 -1.7 mm/day (Alfaro et al. 2008), and would be
absorbed in approximately 10 -13 days.
Larvae (Young of the Year [YOY]): Young-of-the-year remain at the spawning site
until their yolk-sacs are absorbed at which point they disperse and begin feeding
(Simon and Wallus 1989), remaining in shallow (less than 1 m) littoral zones containing
vegetation and substrates of mud, silt and sand (Goodyear et al. 1982).
Juvenile (age 1 until sexual maturity [2-3 yrs males; 3-4 yrs females]): There is no
published information on the habitat requirements for juvenile Spotted Gar; however,
they are likely to be similar to those of YOY and adults.
Adult: In Canada, adult Spotted Gar are found in the shallow (0-5 m), warm waters of
coastal wetlands with abundant vegetation in Lake Erie (Lane et al. 1996); habitat data
for the East Lake capture site are not available. In general, the species prefers quiet
pools, backwaters and bays with an abundance of aquatic vegetation (Parker and
McKee 1984, Page and Burr 1991) or submerged branches (Snedden et al. 1999).
Dense vegetation provides necessary camouflage and reduces visibility to potential
prey (Coen et al. 1981); as the Spotted Gar is an ambush predator, dense vegetation is
critical for its foraging behaviour. Collection sites in Lake Erie had dense vegetation
and included water lily (Nuphar sp.), cattails (Typha sp.), Canada waterweed (Elodea
canadensis), pondweed (Potamogeton sp.), stonewort (Chara sp.), milfoil, water celery
(Vallisneria sp.) and hornwort (Ceratophyllum sp.) (Parker and McKee 1984, B. Glass,
UW, pers. comm. 2009). In Oklahoma, Spotted Gar are primarily associated with
smartweed (Polygonum sp.), pondweed, milfoil and water-willow (Justicia sp.) (Tyler
and Granger 1984). Preferred substrates include silt, clay and sand (Lane et al. 1996).
Canadian Spotted Gar capture sites had Secchi depths of 0.3 - >3 m, dissolved oxygen
levels of 9-11 mg/L and water temperatures of 15-17°C (in September) (Parker and
McKee 1984).
8
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Diel and seasonal movements of the Spotted Gar have been studied in Louisiana by
Snedden et al. (1999). Greatest movement occurred as water temperatures and levels
rose during the spring. Large home ranges were established in the spring, typically in
inundated floodplains, which provided suitable spawning and nursery habitat. Small
home ranges were usually established during summer, fall and winter (median 6.6
hectares) (Snedden et al. 1999). However, approximately one third of Spotted Gar
tracked, established significantly larger home ranges (median 265 ha) that were usually
considerable distances from initial capture sites (Snedden et al. 1999). These new
home ranges consisted of seasonally inundated floodplain habitats and heavily
vegetated marshes with little or no flow. Except in spring, Spotted Gar is more active at
night, which is thought to coincide with their feeding period.
1.4.2 Ecological role
Spotted Gar is one of the most abundant predators in structurally complex shallow
water habitats in the southern United States (COSEWIC 2005) and is considered to be
a key element of the food web (Snedden et al. 1999); in areas where they are locally
abundant (e.g., Rondeau Bay) they may also have a key ecological role. The Spotted
Gar is primarily a piscivorous ambush predator that also consumes crayfishes and
aquatic insects (COSEWIC 2005). In Ontario, Scott (1967) listed Yellow Perch (Perca
flavescens) and minnows (Cyprinidae) as forming a large part of the diet. Since Spotted
Gar tends to remain close to the surface, prey species that occupy these areas are
more susceptible to predation (Ostrand et al. 2004). Also, as the Spotted Gar is able to
inhabit waters with low oxygen levels, it is able to forage in areas where other predators
cannot (Burleson et al. 1998, Snedden et al. 1999). Spotted Gar co-occurs with
Longnose Gar in Long Point Bay, Point Pelee National Park and Rondeau Bay, but are
absent from many suitable habitats in southwestern Ontario where Longnose Gar is
abundant (N.E. Mandrak, DFO, unpublished data); further investigation is required to
determine the interspecific interactions between these species.
The Spotted Gar is a known host for a freshwater mussel, the Round Pearlshell
(Glebula rotundata; a freshwater mussel with a life-cycle that includes an obligate
parasite larval stage, usually on a fish host), in the United States (Parker et al. 1984)
and, therefore, has the potential to be a freshwater mussel host in Canadian waters. In
addition, other species of gar are known hosts for some species of freshwater mussels
found in Canada. For example, the Longnose Gar is one host for the Giant Floater
(Pyganodon grandis) (D. Woolnough, Trent University, pers. comm. 2007).
Although the eggs of the Spotted Gar were previously thought to be toxic to some
species (Scott and Crossman 1998), recent studies have shown that the ichthyotoxin of
gar eggs may not act as a protective mechanism from fish predators (Ostrand et al.
1996).
9
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
1.4.3 Limiting factors
There are several limiting factors that may influence the recovery potential of the
Spotted Gar. Water temperature likely limits the distribution of the species in
southwestern Ontario; however, expansion of its range northward may occur under
climate warming scenarios (Mandrak 1989). The availability of quiet, backwater areas
with dense aquatic vegetation is limited in the waters of southwestern Ontario.
Remaining populations are also widely separated and may be isolated. Some of the
currently occupied habitats only intermittently provide access to Lake Erie, thus limiting
migration and dispersal opportunities. Such isolation could lead to low genetic diversity,
low reproductive fitness and inbreeding depression, but this has not been studied.
The recovery potential of Spotted Gar populations may be influenced by factors
impacting specific life-stages. Ferrara (2001) studied the life-stages of the Spotted Gar
to determine which had the greatest influence on population growth rates. Results
suggested that the survival of juvenile Spotted Gar had the highest influence on
population growth rate. Therefore, in theory, management actions that enhance the
survival of juveniles should result in the largest population growth rate as compared to
actions targeting other life-stages.
1.5
Threats
1.5.1 Threat classification
All known and suspected threats affecting the Spotted Gar in Canada are listed in order
of concern in Table 2. Seven potential threats were ranked based on their expected
relative impacts. Where possible, the spatial extent, frequency, causal certainty, and
expected severity of the threat has been identified. Overall level of concern is also
given for each threat. The threat classification parameters are defined as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
Overall level of concern – composite level of concern regarding the threat to the
species, taking into account the four parameters listed below (H/M/L)
Extent – spatial extent of the threat in the waterbody (widespread/localized);
Frequency – frequency with which the threat occurs in the waterbody
(seasonal/continuous);
Causal certainty – level of certainty that it is a threat to the species (High – H,
Medium – M, Low - L); and,
Severity – severity of the threat in the waterbody (H/M/L).
10
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Table 2. Threat classification table
Specific threat
Habitat modifications
Aquatic vegetation
removal
Sediment loadings
Nutrient loadings
Exotic species
Climate change
Barriers to movement
Fishing pressure
(incidental harvest)
Overall
level of
concern
(high,
medium,
low)
H
Extent
(widespread
/localized)
Frequency
(seasonal/
continuous)
Causal
certainty
(high,
medium,
low)
Severity
(high,
medium,
low)
W
C
H
H
M
W
S
M
Unknown
H
H
M
M
L
W
W
W
W
L
S
S
C
C
C
H
H
M
M
M
H
M
M
Unknown
Unknown
L
L
Unknown
Unknown Unknown
1.5.2 Description of threats
Habitat modifications: Quiet, vegetated, shallow habitats, vital to all stages of the
Spotted Gar life-history, are rapidly disappearing, or are being degraded as a result of
siltation, dredging, filling and harbour improvements (COSEWIC 2005). Habitat loss
can result from shoreline hardening and the construction of in-water and shoreline
structures (e.g., piers, groynes, docks) within Spotted Gar habitat. Within Rondeau
Harbour, historic losses and degradation of nearshore habitat has occurred where
shoreline development resulted in shoreline hardening.
Aquatic vegetation removal: The removal or control of aquatic vegetation is a
type of habitat modification that merits special attention due to the importance of
aquatic vegetation to Spotted Gar. The physical act of removing aquatic
vegetation can be harmful to the species; the mechanical removal of vegetation
disturbs sediments and creates turbid conditions; and, vegetation removal using
herbicides introduces potentially harmful chemicals into the water. Though large
scale aquatic vegetation removal is believed to be a serious threat to the Spotted
Gar, the amount of vegetation being removed and the degree to which this may
impact the species is unknown.
Historic large-scale, and recent small-scale, vegetation removals conducted in
Rondeau Harbour removed Spotted Gar habitat. However, with recent
overgrowths of aquatic vegetation in Rondeau Bay (Gilbert et al. 2007), it is
possible that limited vegetation removal could benefit the species in such
conditions; additional research is required to determine this.
11
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Aquatic vegetation removal is also occurring in the Inner Bay at Long Point,
especially within the cottage community channels, where aquatic vegetation is
becoming more of a management issue (due to overgrowth). Additionally, the
draw seine fishery within Long Point Bay removes aquatic vegetation in the
spring to facilitate fishing (J. Robinson, CWS, pers. comm. 2009).
In the Point Pelee area, close to 60% of the historic marshes that once
hydrologically connected the existing park with present day Hillman Marsh were
drained between the 1890s and 1950s for agricultural use. This likely led to a
considerable reduction in the amount of habitat available for the Spotted Gar
population within the Point Pelee area (V. McKay, Parks Canada Agency [PCA],
pers. comm. 2008).
Sediment loading: Sediment loading affects inland watercourses, coastal wetlands and
nearshore habitats by decreasing water clarity, increasing siltation of substrates, and
may have a role in the selective transport of pollutants including phosphorus. Sediment
loading is often caused by a variety of sources, including poor agricultural and land
management practices, improper drain maintenance practices, dredging activities and
the removal of riparian vegetation. Increased turbidity as a result of sediment loading,
as documented at Point Pelee National Park (H. Surette, University of Guelph, pers.
comm. 2007), can limit the ability of the Spotted Gar to feed. Turbidity and siltation can
negatively impact species by causing reductions in respiration, vision, prey abundance,
as well as smothering their eggs. Siltation from tile drainage has been evidenced in
Rondeau Bay, particularly during storm events (Gilbert et al. 2007). Water entering
Rondeau Bay from tributaries on the north and west shores is high in nutrients and
suspended solid concentrations (including sediment) and has resulted in considerable
long-term impacts on the bay, nearshore areas, and riparian wetland habitat (Gilbert et
al. 2007).
Nutrient loading: Nutrient loading, which is often associated with sediment loading,
has been identified as a primary threat to the three coastal wetlands currently occupied
by the Spotted Gar (EERT 2008). Nutrient (nitrates and phosphorus) enrichment of
waterways can negatively influence aquatic health through algal blooms and associated
reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations. Elevated nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus)
concentrations can impact Spotted Gar populations directly (e.g., altering habitat) or
indirectly (e.g., reducing prey abundance). This is particularly evident in Rondeau Bay
where nutrient loading from adjacent agriculture and residential areas is negatively
impacting wetland habitats (Gilbert et al. 2007). Where nutrient inputs are elevated,
vegetation diversity has declined and native species of emergent and submergent
wetland vegetation, preferred by Spotted Gar, are outcompeted by cattail and common
reed grass (Phragmites australis). Although wetlands are highly valued for their water
filtering capacity, these systems are negatively impacted when nutrient (and chemical)
concentrations exceed background levels (Gilbert et al. 2007).
12
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Exotic species: Exotic species may affect the Spotted Gar in several different ways
including competition for space, habitat, and food, and restructuring of aquatic food
webs. There are now at least 182 exotic species known from the Great Lakes (Ricciardi
2006) and some of these species are likely to impact the Spotted Gar or its habitat. The
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus), and Zebra
and Quagga mussels (Dreissena spp.), are exotic species that have had a dramatic
effect on the aquatic community of Lake Erie and will continue to alter/transform
ecosystems and ecosystem processes. It should be noted that the establishment of the
Zebra Mussel may have improved habitat conditions by improving water clarity, which
promotes aquatic plant establishment at some locations (Ontario Federation of Anglers
and Hunters 2011). The Round Goby has spread throughout Lake Erie. Beach seining
surveys on Pelee Island and along the north shore of Lake Erie in 2005-06 found Round
Goby present at all 34 sites surveyed (Reid and Mandrak 2008). Since Spotted Gar
typically feed on fishes near the surface, the shift to a fish community increasingly
dominated by Round Goby (a bottom-dwelling species) may negatively impact this
species. It is also possible that Round Goby may eat Spotted Gar eggs; the Round
Goby is known to eat the eggs of native darter and sculpin species (Fuller et al. 2009).
Exotic species such as Common Carp, common reed grass and possibly hybrid cattails
are a concern for existing populations of Spotted Gar since these species can cause
significant alterations of native wetland habitats.
The exotic Florida Gar has been collected in the Great Lakes basin (likely the result of
aquaria releases). This related species could represent an additional threat to the
Spotted Gar, either through hybridization or competition, if the species becomes
established. There are reports of hybridization where these species overlap in Florida
(Lee et al. 1980) and Florida Gar are sometimes available in local aquarium stores.
Climate change: Climate change is expected to have significant effects on aquatic
communities of the Great Lakes basin through several mechanisms, including increases
in water and air temperatures; changes in water levels (i.e., lowering); shortening of the
duration of ice cover; increases in the frequency of extreme weather events; emergence
of diseases; and, shifts in predator-prey dynamics (Lemmen and Warren 2004). It is
anticipated that the effects of climate change will be widespread and should be
considered a contributing impact to species at risk and all habitats. Not all of the effects
of climate change will negatively affect species at risk – those species that are limited in
their range by cool water temperature, such as the Spotted Gar, may expand their
distribution provided that dispersal corridors of suitable habitat are available. However,
a suite of reactions related to changes in evaporation patterns, vegetation communities,
lower lake levels, increased intensity and frequency of storms, and decreases in
summer stream water levels may offset the direct benefits of increased temperatures.
In a recent assessment of the projected impacts of climate change on coastal wetland
fish communities in the lower Great Lakes, Doka et al. (2006) predicted several fishes at
risk as most vulnerable. Their results showed that the Spotted Gar ranked 5th highest in
vulnerability scores of 99 fish species that use lacustrine (lake) habitats. Vulnerabilities
13
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
were based on an assessment of climate change risk associated with coastal wetland
and thermal preferences for different life-stages as well as species’ distributions.
Barriers to movement: Natural or man-made barriers may afford protection for some
species from competitors, exotic species and predators. Therefore, any breaches in the
barrier could have negative impacts on local fish communities. For example, another
fish species at risk, the Lake Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta) is found in two diked
wetlands where water level management is ongoing (Big Creek NWA and St. Clair
NWA); in this instance, it appears as though the dikes are maintaining Lake Chubsucker
habitat (Staton et al. 2010). Natural barriers at Point Pelee National Park are breached
naturally on occasion; however, breaches may be occurring more frequently as a result
of human alterations to the shoreline coastal processes that have increased the rates of
coastal erosion (V. McKay, PCA, pers. comm. 2007). Conversely, barriers may prevent
access to suitable habitat, lead to fragmentation of populations and limit any rescue
effect. In some instances, culverts present a physical or velocity barrier (e.g., perched
above the streambed or sized improperly) to fish passage between wetland areas and
upstream habitat.
Wetlands with natural or artificially maintained barriers include Point Pelee National
Park and Big Creek NWA (Long Point region). Spotted Gar have not been recorded
from waterbodies where water level management occurs.
Fishing pressure: Although it is not legal to fish for the Spotted Gar (either
commercially or recreationally), the species may still be captured incidentally. The
extent to which the Spotted Gar may be affected by such incidental harvest is unknown,
but is believed to be low. The potential for incidental harvest as a result of baitfishing,
coarse fish spearing, sport fishing and commercial fishing (e.g., trap-netting and draw
seining at Long Point) requires further investigation.
14
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
1.6
2012
Actions already completed or underway
Essex-Erie Recovery Strategy: The Essex-Erie Recovery Team is co-chaired by DFO
and the Essex Region Conservation Authority, and receives support from many
agencies and individuals. The Essex-Erie Recovery Strategy (EERS) is a multi-species
recovery strategy that covers 14 fishes at risk, including the Spotted Gar throughout its
historic range. The long-term goal of this strategy is “to maintain and restore ecosystem
quality and function in the Essex-Erie region to support viable populations of fish
species at risk, across their current and former range” (EERT 2008). This recovery
program will play a central role in recovering Spotted Gar populations. The EERT has
identified the three coastal wetlands in Lake Erie with extant populations as core areas
for directing recovery efforts to benefit the Spotted Gar and other high priority fishes.
Implementation of this strategy (including stewardship actions to reduce identified
threats) is proceeding through the efforts of the recovery team and associated Recovery
Implementation Groups (RIGs). In addition, some parks and protected areas have
ongoing stewardship and awareness initiatives. At Point Pelee National Park, seasonal
programs provide increased awareness of species at risk issues such as habitat loss,
contaminants, exotic species and water quality concerns within the park. Similar
programs occur at Rondeau Provincial Park. For further details on specific actions
currently underway, refer to the approaches identified in Table 6. Funding for many of
these actions is supported by the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship
Program (HSP) for Species at Risk.
Rondeau Bay aquatic vegetation issues working group: This multi-agency working
group was initially formed to provide a forum for the discussion of issues related to
aquatic vegetation in Rondeau Bay. There has been growing concern over the past few
decades by government agencies and the public over the dramatic fluctuations in the
aquatic vegetation community in Rondeau Bay. In recent years, the overgrowth of
aquatic vegetation has resulted in increased pressure on regulatory agencies to
approve aquatic vegetation removal projects to allow for boat access and recreational
uses in the bay. Specifically, the working group will work to ensure that aquatic
vegetation removal projects do not negatively impact the Spotted Gar and other species
at risk. More broadly, the group will seek to facilitate solutions to balance competing
human interests with efforts to protect and improve habitat conditions for fish and
wildlife in the bay, with a focus on fishes at risk. The objectives of the group include the
promotion and protection of species at risk as well as to provide guidance and support
to stewardship initiatives within the Rondeau Bay watershed. Several stewardship
groups aimed at improving land use practices and aquatic habitat are currently active
within the basin.
Spotted Gar research: A graduate student from the University of Windsor, in
cooperation with DFO, has completed a study on age and growth of Spotted Gar (Glass
et al. 2011), and is conducting studies (initiated in 2007) on the genetic variation of
Spotted Gar and the movements of Spotted Gar within Rondeau Bay (via radio tracking)
to determine home range and habitat utilization (N. Mandrak, DFO, pers. comm. 2011).
15
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Awareness – incidental harvest: Although not legal, some incidental harvest of
Spotted Gar by commercial fishers is possible at Long Point Bay. An information
package has been developed and distributed to commercial fishers that may harvest in
occupied wetlands. The information package includes a description and illustration of
the species, a map of known areas of occupation and a description of preferred
habitats. Fishermen were asked to avoid areas of known occurrence and to report
areas of incidental captures. In Point Pelee National Park, fish species at risk
information packages were distributed in 2008 and 2009 to all day use and seasonal
sport fishers, including an explanatory letter, a DFO fact sheet for the Spotted Gar and
other fish species at risk in the marsh, and a species report form. Sport fishers were
asked not to target these fishes at risk, to release them as quickly as possible if they
were caught accidentally and to report their capture to park staff using the form provided
(V. McKay, PCA, pers. comm. 2009). Incidental harvest by recreational anglers is also a
possibility at Long Point Bay and Rondeau Bay; although, further investigation is
required to determine if this is actually occurring and to what degree it is a threat.
Recent surveys: The following table summarizes recent fish surveys conducted by
various groups/agencies within areas of known occurrence of the Spotted Gar.
16
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Table 3. Summary of recent fish surveys in areas of Spotted Gar occurrence
(adapted from EERT 2008)
Waterbody/general
area
Survey description (years of survey effort)
•
•
•
Essex-Erie targeted sampling for fishes at risk, DFO (2007)a, f
Nearshore fish community survey, OMNR (2005, 2007)a
Fish community survey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (1996Lake St. Clair
2001)b
• YOY index seine survey, OMNR (annual)a
• Fall trap-net survey, OMNR (1974-2007, annually)f
St. Clair NWA
• DFO fish assemblage survey (2005)e
• Coastal wetlands sampling along Lake Erie, OMNR (2004-2005)c
• Nearshore beach seining surveys, OMNR and DFO (2005-2006)a (Reid and
Lake Erie
Mandrak 2008)
• Nearshore seine survey, west and west-central basins, OMNR (2007-2008)a
• Fish species composition study (Surette 2006), University of Guelph, DFO
Point Pelee National
and Point Pelee National Park (2002-2003)a, b, d, e, f
Park
• Spotted Gar research, UW and DFO (2009) e
• Targeted sampling, DFO (2002)d
Rondeau Bay
• Fish community surveys, OMNR and DFO (2004-2005)a, d, e
• Spotted Gar research, UW, DFO (2007-2009)d, e
• Index surveys of Long Point Bay, OMNR (annually)b
• Targeted sampling, DFO (2004, 2005)a, d, e, f
Long Point Bay
• Essex-Erie targeted sampling for species at risk (Turkey Point), DFO
(2007)a, d, f
• Fish community sampling, OMNR (2008)
Long Point NWA
• DFO fish assemblage survey (2002, 2004-2005)d, e
Big Creek and Big
• DFO fish assemblage survey (2002, 2005)a, d, e
Creek NWA
• Targeted sampling, OMNR (2004)a
Gear type: a-seine, b-trawl, c-backpack electrofishing unit, d-boat electrofishing unit, e-fyke nets, fadditional gear (trap nets and Windermere traps).
1.7
Knowledge gaps
There are numerous aspects regarding the biology, ecology, distribution and abundance
of the Spotted Gar that remain unknown. This information is required to refine recovery
approaches and to aid in refining critical habitat identification. Information is lacking
regarding home range size, habitat use, seasonal movements and connectivity of
populations at Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Bay, Big Creek NWA, and Long
Point Bay. Primary threats that may be impacting populations have not been fully
assessed (e.g., source of threat, extent). Competition with the more abundant
Longnose Gar may pose a threat to the Spotted Gar. The association of these two
closely related species, as well as the likelihood of Florida Gar becoming established in
Canada, need to be further investigated.
Aboriginal traditional knowledge will be sought through consultation and engagement
processes to fill knowledge gaps and aid in the conservation of Spotted Gar.
17
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2.
2012
RECOVERY
The following goals, objectives and recovery approaches were adapted from the EssexErie Recovery Strategy (EERT 2008), which includes the three extant populations of
Spotted Gar within the coastal wetlands of Lake Erie.
2.1
Recovery feasibility
The recovery of the Spotted Gar is considered to be both biologically and technically
feasible. The following feasibility criteria 1 have been met for the species:
1. Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population
growth or population abundance?
Yes. Reproducing populations currently exist within the Canadian range of the
species (e.g., Point Pelee National Park and Rondeau Bay).
2. Is sufficient habitat available to support the species or could it be made available
through habitat management or restoration?
Yes. Sufficient habitat appears to be present at one or more locations with
extant populations.
3. Can significant threats to the species or its habitats be avoided or mitigated through
recovery actions?
Yes. Significant threats such as sedimentation and nutrient enrichment,
increased levels of turbidity and loss of wetland habitat can be mitigated through
established restoration methods.
4. Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be
effective?
Yes. Techniques to reduce identified threats (e.g., Best Management Practices
[BMPs] to reduce sedimentation and nutrient enrichment) and restore wetland
habitats are well known and proven to be effective.
The effort expended to achieve recovery will not be uniform across all populations.
Locations with extirpated or reduced populations may require substantial effort to
improve habitat and possibly repatriate populations.
1
Draft Policy on the Feasibility of Recovery, Species at Risk Act Policy. January 2005.
18
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2.2
2012
Recovery goal
The long-term recovery goal (greater than 20 years) is to protect, enhance and maintain
viable Spotted Gar populations within the three coastal wetlands of Lake Erie where
extant populations occur.
The present long-term recovery goal is based on current information. If additional
extant populations (e.g., East Lake, Hamilton Harbour) of the Spotted Gar are found
and/or repatriating an extirpated population is deemed to be feasible, the recovery goal
will be revised.
2.3
Population and distribution objective(s)
Over the next five year period, the population and distribution objective is to maintain
current distributions and densities of extant populations of Spotted Gar in the three
coastal wetlands of Lake Erie (Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Bay and Long Point
Bay/Big Creek NWA). More quantifiable objectives relating to individual populations are
not possible at this time, but will be developed once the necessary sampling and studies
have been completed (Refer to the Schedule of Studies in Section 2.7.5 for anticipated
timelines). Such knowledge gaps will be addressed by recovery actions given ‘urgent’
priority that are included in the recovery planning approaches.
2.4
Recovery objectives
In support of the long-term goal, the following short/medium-term recovery objectives
will be addressed over a 5-10 year period:
i.
ii.
iii.
iv.
v.
vi.
vii.
viii.
2.5
Refine population and distribution objectives;
Ensure adequate protection of critical habitat;
Determine long-term population and habitat trends;
Identify threats, evaluate their relative impacts and implement remedial actions to
reduce their effects;
Enhance efficiency of recovery efforts;
Enhance quality and extent of available habitat;
Improve overall awareness and appreciation of the Spotted Gar and the coastal
wetland habitats that support it; and,
Engage landowners, communities and organizations in stewardship actions that
minimize/eliminate identified threats to Spotted Gar and its habitat.
Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives
2.5.1 Recovery planning
The overall approaches recommended to meet the recovery objectives have been
organized into three categories represented by the following tables: research and
monitoring (Table 4); management and coordination (Table 5); and, stewardship,
outreach and awareness (Table 6). Each table presents specific steps with a ranking of
19
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Priority
Objective(s)
addressed
priority (urgent, necessary, beneficial), a link to the recovery objectives, a listing of the
broad approach, a description of the threat addressed, and suggested outcomes or
deliverables to measure progress. A narrative following each table is included when
further explanation of specific approaches is warranted. Implementation of the following
approaches will be accomplished in coordination with the Essex-Erie Recovery Team
(EERT) and its associated implementation groups
.
Table 4. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – research and monitoring
Threats
addressed
Recommended approaches
to meet recovery objectives
All
R1. Background
surveys –
new/suspected
and historic
locations
i, iii
All
R2. Background
surveys – extant
locations
ii, iii
All
R3. Monitoring–
populations and
habitat
Establish and implement a
standardized index population
and habitat monitoring
program for all extant
locations.
ii
Habitat loss
and
degradation
R4. Research habitat
requirements
Determine the seasonal
habitat needs of all life-stages
of the Spotted Gar. These
investigations should
determine the role that
adjacent riparian and
terrestrial/semi-aquatic
habitat may play in the overall
habitat needs of the species.
URGENT
URGENT
i
URGENT
URGENT
Broad approach
to address
threats
Conduct targeted surveys of
preferred habitats at Turkey
Point, Tremblay Beach
wetlands (mouth of the
Thames, Lake St. Clair) and
Lake Ontario (Bay of Quinte,
Hamilton Harbour, East
Lake).
Complete targeted surveys of
extant populations.
20
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Will determine the
presence/absence of
the species at these
locations.
Will determine health,
range, abundance, and
population
demographics and
contribute to the
identification of critical
habitat.
Will enable
assessments of
changes in range,
abundance, key
demographic characters
and changes in habitat
features, extent and
health.
Will assist with refining
the identification of
critical habitat for
Spotted Gar. Will assist
with the development of
a habitat model.
Priority
Objective(s)
addressed
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
Threats
addressed
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
All
R5. Threat
evaluation and
mitigation
ii
Habitat loss
and
degradation
R6. Research –
home range and
habitat use
iv
Nutrient/
sediment
loading
R7. Point source
contamination
iv
Barriers to
movement
R8. Threat
evaluation and
mitigation –
investigate
connectivity/
viability
Investigate the degree of
connectivity between and
within Spotted Gar
populations (field
surveys/research, genetic
analysis) as well as
population viability.
iv
Fishing
pressure
(incidental
harvest)
R9. Threat
evaluation and
mitigation –
incidental harvest
Evaluate the impacts of
incidental harvest on Spotted
Gar populations (e.g.,
surveys of fishermen).
iv, vi
All
R10. Assessment
of watershedscale stressors
In cooperation with the EERT,
assess watershed-scale
stressors to occupied coastal
wetlands.
Will identify multiple
stressors that may affect
Spotted Gar
populations.
iv
Sediment/
nutrient
loading,
R11. Water
quality monitoring
Measure sediment and
nutrient loads (and possibly
other contaminants) emitted
from streams that are
connected to wetlands
occupied by the Spotted Gar.
Will determine priority
areas for
restoration/stewardship.
URGENT
URGENT
URGENT
Recommended approaches
to meet recovery objectives
iv
URGENT
NECESSARY
NECESSARY
NECESSARY
Broad approach
to address
threats
2012
Confirm the significance of
the threat factors that may be
impacting extant populations.
Identify the primary causes
and take steps to mitigate
immediate threats based on
severity.
Conduct radio-tracking
studies to monitor habitat use
and determine home range
size of individuals in the Lake
Erie wetlands.
Identify point sources of
nutrient and sediment inputs
and their relative effects.
21
Will clarify the severity
of specific threats to
individual populations
and alleviate their
impacts.
Will assist with refining
the identification of
critical habitat.
Will assist with the
prioritization and
direction of on-theground recovery efforts.
Will help to evaluate the
severity of the threat
and identify mitigation
measures, if
appropriate/feasible.
Population viability
analysis will assist in the
identification and
refinement of critical
habitat.
Will help to evaluate the
severity of the threat
and identify mitigation or
enforcement measures,
if appropriate.
Objective(s)
addressed
Threats
addressed
Broad approach
to address
threats
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
R12. Monitoring
and enforcement
Continue to monitor,
investigate and enforce
penalties associated with
illegal vegetation removal
when it occurs in habitats
occupied by the Spotted Gar.
To be accomplished in
collaboration with the
Rondeau Bay Aquatic
Vegetation Issues Working
Group.
Will reduce vegetation
removal threats to
populations and create
awareness that such
areas constitute
important habitat.
iv
All
R13. Response
of Spotted Gar to
wetland
management
practices
Investigate the response of
the Spotted Gar to wetland
management practices (e.g.,
Phragmites australis
control/management, water
level management and other
habitat alterations).
Will help to inform future
management practices
within wetlands
containing Spotted Gar.
iv
All
R14.Interspecific
interactions
Investigate the relationship
between Longnose Gar and
Spotted Gar in areas where
they coexist.
Will determine what
impact, if any, the
Longnose Gar has on
the Spotted Gar.
iv
Exotic
species
R15. Florida Gar
risk assessment
Conduct a risk assessment
on the probability of Florida
Gar becoming established in
the Great Lakes basin (i.e.,
within Spotted Gar habitats).
iv
Climate
change
R16. Threat
evaluation –
climate change
Investigate the impacts
climate change is having, and
will continue to have, on the
Spotted Gar and coastal
wetland habitats.
Will identify the potential
for the Florida Gar to
impact Spotted Gar
populations. Will assist
in determining level of
threat to the Spotted
Gar.
Will evaluate the impact
of climate change and
inform appropriate
mitigation measures.
NECESSARY
BENEFICIAL
Recommended approaches
to meet recovery objectives
Habitat loss
and
degradation
BENEFICIAL
BENEFICIAL
2012
iv
NECESSARY
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
Background targeted surveys (R1-R2)
Focused efforts are required to determine the Spotted Gar’s current distribution in areas
of extant and historical occurrence as well as directed searches to detect new
populations in high probability locations (such as Turkey Point, Hamilton Harbour, East
Lake). Sampling methods should be standardized at all sites and include a relevant
assessment of habitat characteristics. Recent surveys by DFO have indicated that both
active (boat electrofishing) and passive (fyke and trap nets) sampling methods were
successful in capturing Spotted Gar in southwestern Ontario (Mandrak et al. 2006b).
22
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Monitoring populations and habitat: (R3)
Monitoring populations and habitat will assist with identifying key habitat requirements
needed to identify and refine critical habitat, as well as the implementation of strategies
to protect known currently occupied and historically occupied habitats. The monitoring
program should be designed to allow for quantitative tracking of changes in population
abundance and demographics, analyses of habitat use and availability, and changes in
these parameters over time (with regard to known threats). It should also have the
ability to detect the presence and abundance of exotic species (e.g., fishes and plants),
prey species and other top predators such as the Longnose Gar. The fish monitoring
protocol should have regard for the methodologies used in background survey work and
provide guidance on the time of sampling and the types of biological samples that
should be collected (e.g., fin rays, length and weight).
Objective(s)
addressed
Threats
addressed
v
All
C1.
Coordination
with other
recovery teams
and relevant
groups
Work with the EERT and
other relevant groups to
share knowledge and
implement recovery
actions.
vi, vii
Habitat loss
and
degradation
C2. Municipal
planning –
involvement
vi,
vii,
viii
Sediment
loading;
habitat loss
and
degradation
C3. Relationship
building –
drainage
iv, vi
Habitat loss
and
degradation
C4. Guidelines:
dredge, fill and
vegetation
removal
Encourage municipalities to
protect habitats that are
important to the Spotted
Gar in their Official Plans
and ensure that planning
and management agencies
are aware of habitats
important to the species.
Establish good working
relationships with drainage
supervisors, engineers and
contractors to limit the
effects of drainage activities
on coastal wetland habitats.
Ensure that existing
guidelines on reducing,
mitigating and restoring
areas of dredge, fill and
vegetation removal impacts
take the needs of the
Spotted Gar into account.
NECESSARY
NECESSARY
URGENT
URGENT
Priority
Table 5. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – management and coordination
Broad approach
to address
threats
Recommended approaches
to meet recovery objectives
23
Outcomes or deliverables
(identify measurable
targets)
Will combine efficiencies,
resources, ensure
information dissemination,
help prioritize the most
urgent actions and allow
for a coordinated
approach to recovery.
Will assist with the
recovery of the Spotted
Gar and the protection of
important Spotted Gar
habitat.
Will increase the
knowledge and
understanding of fish
habitat needs and may
lead to fewer and/or less
harmful alterations.
Will reduce and/or
mitigate impacts of
dredge, fill, and
vegetation removal.
Objective(s)
addressed
Threats
addressed
v, vii
All
NECESSARY
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
Broad approach
to address
threats
C5. Information
sharingland use
planning
2012
Recommended approaches
to meet recovery objectives
Encourage responsible
agencies/jurisdictions to
integrate recovery team
recommendations into
planning documents,
including land management
plans.
Outcomes or deliverables
(identify measurable
targets)
Will ensure applicable
agencies have timely
access to the best
information available for
integration into planning
and land management
approaches and
processes.
Objective
addressed
Threats
addressed
Broad approach to
address threats
v
All
iv, vi,
vii,
viii
iv,
vii,
viii
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objectives
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
S1. Collaboration
and information
sharing*
Collaborate with relevant
groups, initiatives and
recovery teams to address
recovery actions of benefit
to the Spotted Gar.
Sediment/
nutrient
loading;
habitat loss
and
degradation
S2. Stewardship
and habitat
initiatives*
Promote stewardship
among landowners, First
Nations and other
interested parties (e.g.,
anglers) within watersheds
of the occupied coastal
wetlands, particularly
Rondeau Bay.
Sediment/
nutrient
loading;
habitat loss
and
degradation
S3. Stewardship implementation of
BMPs*
Work with landowners to
implement BMPs in areas
where they will provide the
most benefit. Encourage
the completion and
implementation of
Environmental Farm Plans
(EFPs) and Nutrient
Management Plans
(NMPs).
Will combine efficiencies
in addressing common
recovery actions, and
ensure information is
disseminated in a timely,
cooperative fashion.
Will raise community
support and awareness of
recovery initiatives. Will
raise profile of the
Spotted Gar and improve
awareness of
opportunities to improve
water quality within
coastal wetlands.
Will minimize threats from
soil erosion,
sedimentation, and
nutrient and chemical
contamination.
URGENT
URGENT
URGENT
Priority
Table 6. Recovery planning table for Spotted Gar – stewardship, outreach and
awareness
24
Objective
addressed
Threats
addressed
Broad approach to
address threats
vii,
viii
All
S4.Communications
strategy
viii
All
S5. Stewardship –
financial assistance/
incentives*
vii
Fishing
pressure
(incidental
harvest)
S6. Awareness –
incidental harvest
NECESSARY
ECESSARY
Priority
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Recommended
approaches to meet
recovery objectives
Outcomes or
deliverables (identify
measurable targets)
Develop and implement a
communications strategy
that identifies partners,
target audiences,
approaches, information
products, educational and
outreach opportunities,
stewardship resources and
specific BMPs that will
assist with the recovery of
this species. Should
include a focus on
awareness of SARA to
help ensure compliance
with the Act.
Facilitate access to funding
sources for landowner,
First Nations and local
community groups
engaged in stewardship
activities.
Will provide a strategic
basis for improving public
awareness of species at
risk and promote ways in
which community and
public involvement can be
most effectively solicited
for the recovery of this
species.
Will facilitate the
implementation of
recovery efforts, BMPs
associated with water
quality improvements,
sediment load reduction,
etc.
Reduce number of
Spotted Gar lost to
incidental harvest and
build upon monitoring
efforts of this species.
BENEFICIAL
Provide a Spotted Gar
information package to
commercial and possibly
recreational fishers.
Request avoidance of
occupied habitats, and the
release and reporting of
any Spotted Gar captured.
* Approaches currently being implemented by an ecosystem-based recovery program.
Stewardship and habitat initiatives (S2)
Large-scale efforts to improve the habitat quality of occupied coastal wetland habitats
will be required at some locations (such as Rondeau Bay). Emphasis should be placed
on improving habitat required for juvenile Spotted Gar as it is believed that this life-stage
has the most influence on population growth (Ferrara 2001, Young and Koops 2010). It
will be necessary to engage landowners, local communities, First Nations and
stewardship councils on the issues of Spotted Gar recovery, ecosystem and
environmental health, clean water protection, nutrient management, BMPs, stewardship
projects and associated financial incentives. Towards this end, the recovery team will
work closely with other relevant groups/agencies and the EERT, which is currently
involved with stewardship programs directed towards the improvement of coastal
wetlands habitats.
25
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Implementation of BMPs (S3)
The implementation of BMPs will be largely facilitated through established programs of
the EERT and associated groups such as Stewardship Kent and the Long Point Region
Conservation Authority. To be effective, BMPs should be targeted to address the
primary threats affecting currently occupied/critical habitat. BMPs implemented will
include those relating to the establishment of riparian buffers, soil conservation, septic
improvements to prevent nutrient run-off, herd management, nutrient and manure
management and tile drainage within watersheds impacting occupied coastal wetlands.
Such BMPs result in reductions in erosion and sediment and nutrient loadings into
adjacent watercourses, thereby improving water quality. EFPs prioritize BMP
implementation at the level of individual farms and are often a pre-requisite for funding
programs. For more information on BMPs, see the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and
Food and Rural Affairs, Best Management Practices Series.
Awareness – incidental harvest (S6)
Although this activity is currently underway (see Section 1.6), additional effort may be
warranted. The effectiveness of the awareness program will be monitored and will
inform future recovery approaches. Messaging should highlight the value of the Spotted
Gar and the important role it plays within local freshwater ecosystems.
2.6
Performance measures
The success of implementing the recommended recovery approaches will be evaluated
primarily through routine population (distribution and abundance) and habitat (quality
and quantity) surveys and monitoring. During the next five years, quantifiable targets
will be established for the Spotted Gar. The recovery strategy will be reported on in five
years to evaluate progress made toward short-term and long-term targets, and the
current goals and objectives will be reviewed within an adaptive management planning
framework with input from the EERT.
The performance measures to evaluate recovery progress in meeting the recovery
objectives are presented in Table 7.
26
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Table 7. Performance measures
Recovery objective
P1. Refine population and distribution objectives.
Performance measures
Refined population and distribution objectives
determined by 2015.
P2. Ensure adequate protection of critical habitat.
Completion of activities outlined in the Schedule of
Studies for the complete identification of critical
habitat within the proposed timelines.
Critical habitat protected where identified.
Monitoring program established by 2015.
Current distribution and density of Spotted Gar in
three extant Great Lakes coastal wetland
populations is maintained or enhanced.
Relative significance of threats evaluated by 2014.
Initiate implementation of remedial actions to
address priority threats by 2015.
Quantification of BMPs (e.g., number of NMPs and
EFPs completed; hectares of riparian zone
established) implemented by EERT and other
interest groups to address threats within the three
occupied Lake Erie coastal wetlands by 2016 (ongoing).
Report on habitat improvements as detected by the
monitoring program five years after the initial
baseline data collected (by 2020).
P3. Determine long-term population and habitat
trends.
P4. Identify threats, evaluate their relative impacts
and implement remedial actions to reduce their
effects.
P5. Enhance efficiency of recovery efforts.
P6. Enhance quality and extent of available
habitat.
P7. Improve overall awareness and appreciation of
the Spotted Gar and the coastal wetland habitats
that support it.
P8. Engage landowners, communities, First
Nations and organizations in stewardship actions
that minimize/eliminate identified threats to Spotted
Gar and its habitat.
2.7
Document any changes in public perceptions and
support for identified recovery actions through
guidance identified in the communications strategy
(by 2015).
Landowners engaged in stewardship actions from
2012-2016.
Critical habitat
2.7.1 Identification of the Spotted Gar’s critical habitat
The identification of critical habitat for Threatened and Endangered species (on
Schedule 1) is a requirement of the SARA. Once identified, SARA includes provisions
to prevent the destruction of critical habitat. Critical habitat is defined under section 2(1)
of SARA as:
“…the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that
is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan
for the species”. [s. 2(1)]
SARA defines habitat for aquatic species at risk as:
27
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
“… spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other
areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out
their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have
the potential to be reintroduced.” [s. 2(1)]
For the Spotted Gar, critical habitat has been identified to the extent possible, using the
best available information. The critical habitat identified in this recovery strategy
describes the geospatial areas that contain the habitat necessary for the survival or
recovery of the species. The current areas identified may be insufficient to achieve the
population and distribution objectives for the species. As such, a schedule of studies has
been included to further refine the description of critical habitat (in terms of its biophysical
functions/features/attributes as well as its spatial extent) to support its protection.
2.7.2 Information and methods used to identify critical habitat
Using the best available information, critical habitat has been identified using a ‘bounding
box’ approach for the three coastal wetlands where the species presently occurs. This
approach requires the use of essential functions, features and attributes for each lifestage of the Spotted Gar to identify patches of critical habitat within the ‘bounding box’,
which is defined by occupancy data for the species. Life-stage habitat information is
summarized in chart form using available data and studies referred to in Section 1.4.1
(Habitat and biological needs). The ‘bounding box’ approach was the most appropriate
given the limited information available for the species and the lack of detailed habitat
mapping for these areas. Where habitat information was available (e.g., Ecological Land
Classification [ELC], bathymetry data), it was used to inform identification of critical
habitat. Specific methods and data used to identify critical habitat (such as the use of
ELC) are summarized below (for more detailed information refer to Appendix 2).
Point Pelee National Park: Critical habitat was identified for Spotted Gar within the
ponds of Point Pelee National Park using data from the following datasets: Surette
(2006), Razavi (2006), A.-M. Cappelli (unpublished data, 2009), and B. Glass
(unpublished data, 2009), as well as photographic documentation in 2007 (S. Staton,
pers. obs.). Pond names were taken from the National Topographic System (NTS)
series of maps.
Rondeau Bay: Datasets from the DFO database for the period from 1955 to 2004, as
well as the extensive capture (total of 210 specimens) and tracking data from 2007 (B.
Glass, UW, unpublished data) were used in the identification of critical habitat in
Rondeau Bay. Within Rondeau Provincial Park, critical habitat was refined using
available ELC data for the park. ELC assesses the distribution and groupings of plant
species and attempts to understand them according to ecosystem patterns and
processes. It also helps to establish patterns among vegetation, soils, geology,
landform and climate, at different scales. Using the factors relating to geology, soils,
physiography and vegetation, ELC can be used to map vegetation communities at
varying organizational scales (Lee et al. 1998, Lee et al. 2001). Spotted Gar capture
locations within the park were compared with the park ELC data (Dobbyn and Pasma, in
28
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
prep.) to determine the wetland vegetation types used by the species. All areas
containing these ELC types were initially included as critical habitat; however, aquatic
habitats that were isolated from the waters of the bay were excluded as these areas are
inaccessible to Spotted Gar.
Long Point Bay/Big Creek NWA: Limited data are available for the Spotted Gar
population in Long Point Bay; there are currently 11 records for Spotted Gar in Inner
Long Point Bay, the most recent of which is from 2010 (B. Glass, UW, unpublished
data). Capture data for Big Creek NWA (connected to Long Point Bay) were taken from
one location (L. Bouvier, DFO, pers. comm. 2008).
Critical habitat was identified in these areas using ELC, as the wetland (including
marsh, meadow marsh, shallow marsh, common reed, floating-leaved and mixed
shallow aquatic, and thicket swamp ELC community classes) and aquatic (less than 2 m
depths including open aquatic, submerged shallow aquatic, and open-submergedfloating-leaved, mixed ELC community classes) areas within Big Creek NWA, Inner
Long Point Bay, and the mouth of Big Creek.
Population Viability:
Comparisons of the area of critical habitat identified for each population were made with
estimates of the spatial requirements for a minimum sustainable population size. The
minimum area for population viability (MAPV) for each life-stage of the Spotted Gar was
estimated for populations in Canada (refer to Section 2.7.4). The MAPV is defined as
the amount of exclusive and suitable habitat required for a demographically sustainable
recovery target based on the concept of a minimum viable population size (MVP)
(Vélez-Espino et al. 2008). Therefore, the MAPV is a quantitative metric of critical
habitat that can assist with the recovery and management of species at risk (VélezEspino et al. 2008). The estimated MVP for adult Spotted Gar is approximately 14 000
individuals and the associated MAPV is estimated to be 35 km2, given a 15% chance of
a catastrophic event occurring per generation and an extinction threshold of 20
individuals (i.e., the adult population size below which the population is considered
extinct). (For more information on the MVP and MAPV values for Spotted Gar refer to
Young and Koops [2010].)
MAPV values are somewhat precautionary in that they represent the sum of habitat
needs calculated for each life-history stage of the Spotted Gar; these figures do not take
into account the potential for overlap in the habitat of the various life-history stages and
may overestimate the area required to support an MVP. However, since many of these
populations occur in areas of degraded habitat (MAPV assumes habitat quality is
optimal), areas larger than the MAPV may be required to support an MVP. In addition,
for some populations, it is likely that only a portion of the habitat within that identified as
the critical habitat extent would meet the functional requirements of the species’ various
life-stages.
29
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
2.7.3 Identification of critical habitat: biophysical functions, features and their
attributes
There is limited information on the habitat needs for the various life-stages of the
Spotted Gar. Table 8 summarizes available knowledge on the essential functions,
features and attributes for each life-stage (refer to section 1.4.1 Habitat and biological
needs for full references). Areas identified as critical habitat must support one or more
of these habitat functions.
Table 8. Essential functions, features and attributes of critical habitat for each
life-stage of the Spotted Gar*
Life Stage
Adult and
early life
stage from
spawn to
embryonic
(yolk sac or <
17 mm TL)
Function
Spawning
(May to
June)
Nursery
Larvae (YOY
> 17 mm TL)
Nursery
Cover
Feature(s)
Coastal
wetlands and
connected
quiet
backwater
areas along the
north shore of
Lake Erie:
including
interconnected
flooded riparian
areas and
contributing
channels.
Same as above
Attribute(s)
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Juvenile (age
1 until sexual
maturity [2-3
years males;
3-4 years
females])
Adult (from
onset of
sexual
maturity [2-3
yrs for males;
3-4 years for
females] and
older)
Calm, clear water with little or no flow (e.g.,
quiet backwaters)
Shallow water depths (< 1 m deep)
Dense submergent and emergent vegetation
(e.g., milfoil [Myriophyllum sp.] and curly
pondweed [Potamogeton crispus])
Mixture of sand, silt, clay, or muck substrate
Underwater structure (e.g., branches)
Warm water temperatures (spawning
o
typically occurs from 21 to 26 C; migration
to spawning grounds observed at 18oC)
Shallow littoral zones (e.g., water depths
typically < 1 m)
Dense submergent and emergent vegetation
Mixture of sand, silt , clay or muck substrate
Feeding
Cover
Same as
above.
•
No published information, but assumed to
be the same as YOY and adults
Feeding
Cover
Migration
Same as above
•
Calm, clear water with little or no flow (e.g.,
quiet backwater areas)
Shallow water depths (typically 0.2 to 2.6 m)
Dense submergent and emergent
vegetation (e.g., water lily [Nuphar sp.],
cattails [Typha sp.], Canada waterweed
[Elodea canadensis], pondweed
[Potamogeton sp.], stonewort [Chara sp.],
milfoil, water celery [Vallisneria sp.], and
hornwort [Ceratophyllum sp.])
Mixture of sand, silt, clay or muck substrate
Underwater structure (e.g., branches)
Warm water temperature (ranging from 11.4
•
•
•
•
•
to 31.3°C with an average being 22.6°C
(± 0.19)
30
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
Life Stage
Function
Feature(s)
2012
Attribute(s)
•
Adequate supply of prey species (e.g.,
minnows [Cyprinidae] and Yellow Perch
[Perca flavescens])
*where known or supported by existing data
Studies to further refine knowledge on the essential functions, features and attributes for various
life-stages of the Spotted Gar are described in Section 2.7.5 (Schedule of studies to identify
critical habitat).
2.7.4 Identification of critical habitat: geospatial
Using the best available information, critical habitat has been identified for Spotted Gar
populations in the following areas:
1. Point Pelee National Park;
2. Long Point Bay/Big Creek NWA; and,
3. Rondeau Bay.
Areas of critical habitat identified at these locations may overlap with critical habitat
identified for other co-occurring species at risk (e.g., Lake Chubsucker in Point Pelee
National Park, Rondeau Bay, and Long Point Bay); however, the specific habitat
requirements within these areas may vary by species.
The areas delineated on the following maps (Figures 6-8) represent the area within
which critical habitat is found at this time. Using the ‘bounding box’ approach, critical
habitat is not comprised of all areas within the identified boundaries, but only those
areas where the specified biophysical features/attributes occur (refer to Table 8). Table
9 below provides the geographic coordinates that situate the boundaries within which
critical habitat is found for the Spotted Gar at the three locations; these points are
indicated on Figures 6, 7 and 8. Note that permanent anthropogenic structures that are
present within the delineated areas (e.g., boardwalks, marinas, pumping stations) are
specifically excluded; it is understood that maintenance or replacement of these
features may be required at times.
31
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Table 9. Coordinates locating the boundaries within which critical habitat is found for
the Spotted Gar at three locations.
Coordinates Locating Areas of Critical Habitat
Location
Point Pelee National
Park
Point 1 (NW)
Point 2 (NE)
Point 3 (SE)
Point 4 (SW)
41° 58' 16.130" N
41° 59' 3.038" N
41° 58' 24.724" N
41° 56' 55.374" N
82° 32' 6.518" W
82° 31' 3.807" W
82° 30' 11.366" W
82° 30' 18.126" W
42°18’37.599”N
42°21’7.632”N
42°15’15.910”N
42°15’43.640”N
Rondeau Bay
81°56’58.187”W
81°50’12.408”W
81°52’28.197”W
81°56’16.772”W
Long Point Bay/Big
42°36’1.841”N
42°37’26.541”N
42°34’38.639”N
42°34’24.409”N
Creek NWA
80°29’30.345”W
80°26’46.259”W
80°26’13.748”W
80°29’13.854”W
* Riverine habitats are delineated to the midpoint of channel of the uppermost stream segment and
lowermost stream segment (i.e., two points only)
† Coordinates obtained using map datum NAD 83.
A brief explanation for the areas identified as critical habitat is provided for each of the
three areas below.
Point Pelee National Park: The ponds within Point Pelee National Park, including
Redhead Pond, Lake Pond, East Cranberry Pond, West Cranberry Pond, and Harrison
Pond, are included in the area within which critical habitat is found. However, the
watercraft passage between Harrison and Lake ponds, known as Thiessen Channel
(Figure 6), is excluded from this critical habitat description. Thiessen Channel has been
highly managed (modified and maintained) since at least 1922 to allow for watercraft
passage from the western boundary of the marsh into Lake Pond, and the other
connecting ponds (Battin and Nelson 1978).
32
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Figure 6. Boundaries within which critical habitat for the Spotted Gar is found in Point
Pelee National Park
33
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Long Point Bay/Big Creek NWA: The area within which critical habitat is identified
includes Big Creek NWA, the area around Inner Long Point Bay, and the mouth of Big
Creek (Figure 7). The interior diked cell within Big Creek NWA where Spotted Gar have
not been detected has been excluded (the diked cell is not accessible to Spotted Gar).
The area within which critical habitat has been identified includes all contiguous waters
and wetlands, excluding permanently dry areas, from the causeway west to and
including all of Big Creek NWA to the low-head dike, except habitat contained within the
interior diked cell within the NWA; Big Creek proper and all contiguous wetlands to the
north of Big Creek are included. Within Inner Long Point Bay, the area within which
critical habitat is identified extends north to the pier at Port Rowan and south, down to,
but not including, the dredged channels of the marina complex (see Figure 7).
34
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Figure 7. Boundaries within which critical habitat for the Spotted Gar is found in Long Point Bay/Big Creek NWA
35
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Rondeau Bay: The area within which critical habitat for Spotted Gar is found in
Rondeau Bay is currently identified as the waters and wetland areas (including
seasonally flooded wetlands) of the entire bay (Figure 8). This includes the mouths of
tributaries flowing into the bay, upstream to the point where a defined stream channel is
observed. Within Rondeau Provincial Park, aquatic habitats that were isolated from the
waters of the bay were excluded as these areas are inaccessible to Spotted Gar. In
particular, the areas identified as wetlands to the east of Marsh Trail actually contain
large sections of upland terrestrial habitats that isolate interior wetland pockets (i.e.,
sloughs) (S. Dobbyn, OMNR, pers. comm. 2009). Approximately half of the area within
which critical habitat is identified, lies within Rondeau Provincial Park.
36
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Figure 8. Boundaries within which critical habitat for the Spotted Gar is found in Rondeau Bay
37
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
The identification of critical habitat within Point Pelee National Park, Long Point Bay/Big
Creek NWA, and Rondeau Bay ensures that currently occupied habitat supporting
Spotted Gar is protected, until such time as critical habitat for the species is further
refined according to the schedule of studies laid out in Section 2.7.5. The recovery
team recommends to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that these areas are
necessary to achieve the identified survival and recovery objectives. The schedule of
studies outlines activities necessary to refine the current critical habitat descriptions at
confirmed extant locations, but will also apply to new locations with established
populations should they be confirmed (e.g., East Lake, Hamilton Harbour). Critical
habitat descriptions will be refined as additional information becomes available to
support the population and distribution objectives.
2.7.4.1.
Population Viability
Comparisons were made with the extent of critical habitat identified for each population
relative to the estimated MAPV (Table 10). It should be noted that for some
populations, it is likely that only a portion of the habitat within that identified as the
critical habitat would meet the functional habitat requirements of the species’ various
life-stages. In addition, since these populations occur in areas of degraded habitat
(MAPV assumes habitat quality is optimal), areas larger than the MAPV may be
required to support an MVP. Future studies may help quantify the amount and quality
of available habitat within critical habitats for all populations; such information, along
with the verification of the MAPV model, will allow greater certainty for the determination
of population viability. As such, the results in Table 10 are preliminary and should be
interpreted with caution.
Table 10. Comparison of the area within which critical habitat has been identified (km2)
for each Spotted Gar population, relative to the estimated minimum area for population
viability (MAPV)*
Area of critical habitat
MAPV
MAPV
Population
identified (km2)
(km2)
achieved (Y/N)
Point Pelee National Park
2.2
35
No
Long Point Bay/Big Creek
7.7
35
No
NWA
Rondeau Bay (including
37
35
Yes
Rondeau Provincial Park)
* The MAPV estimation is based on modeling approaches described above. For greater detail refer to
Young and Koops (2010).
2.7.5 Schedule of studies to identify/refine critical habitat
This recovery strategy includes an identification of critical habitat to the extent possible,
based on the best available information. Further studies are required to refine critical
habitat identified for the Spotted Gar to support the population and distribution
objectives for the species. The activities listed in Table 11 are not exhaustive and it is
38
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
likely that the process of investigating these actions may identify additional knowledge
gaps that will need to be addressed.
Table 11. Schedule of studies to identify/refine critical habitat for the Spotted Gar
Approximat
e timeline
Description of activity
Rationale
Conduct studies to
determine the habitat
requirements for each lifestage of the Spotted Gar (in
particular the habitat
requirements of yolk-sac
stage, YOY and juveniles).
There is no published information on
the habitat requirements for juvenile
Spotted Gar. Determining the
habitat requirements for each lifestage will ensure that all necessary
features and attributes of critical
habitat for this species will be
identified.
2013-2015
Survey and map habitat
quality and quantity within
historical and current sites,
as well as sites adjacent to
currently occupied habitat.
Strengthen confidence in data used
to determine if sites meet the criteria
for critical habitat; assist in refining
the spatial boundaries of critical
habitat.
2013-2015
Conduct additional species
surveys to fill in distribution
gaps, and to aid in
determining population
connectivity.
Additional populations and
2013-2015
corresponding critical habitat may be
required to meet the population and
distribution objectives.
Create a population-habitat
supply model for each lifestage.
Will aid in developing recovery
targets and determining the quantity
of critical habitat required by each
life-stage to meet these targets.
Based on information
gathered, review population
and distribution goals.
Determine amount and
configuration of critical
habitat required to achieve
goal if adequate information
exists. Validate model.
Revision of recovery targets may be 2015-2017
required to ensure that they are
achievable and defensible; Will allow
further refinement of critical habitat
description (spatial and biophysical
attributes).
2015-2017
Activities identified in this schedule of studies will be carried out through collaboration
between DFO, PCA, EC-CWS, the EERT, First Nations and other relevant groups and
land managers. Note that many of the individual recovery approaches will address
some of the information requirements listed above.
39
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
2.7.6 Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat
Activities that increase siltation/turbidity levels and/or result in the removal of excessive
amounts of native aquatic vegetation can negatively impact Spotted Gar habitat.
However, in areas where nutrient loading has resulted in the extreme overgrowth of
aquatic vegetation, small-scale vegetation removal may benefit the species. In these
situations, dependent on site-specific reviews, small-scale vegetation removal projects
using approved chemical and/or physical means may be allowed. Appendix 3 provides
additional guidance on vegetation removal.
Without appropriate mitigation, direct destruction of habitat may result from work or
activities such as those identified in Table 12.
The activities described in this table are neither exhaustive nor exclusive and have been
guided by the General Threats described in Section 1.5 of the recovery strategy for the
species. The absence of a specific human activity does not preclude, or fetter the
department’s ability to regulate it pursuant to SARA. Furthermore, the inclusion of an
activity does not result in its automatic prohibition since it is destruction of critical habitat
that is prohibited. Since habitat use is often temporal in nature, every activity is
assessed on a case-by-case basis and site-specific mitigation is applied where it is
reliable and available. In every case, where information is available, thresholds and
limits are associated with attributes to better inform management and regulatory
decision-making. However, in many cases the knowledge of a species and its critical
habitat may be lacking and in particular, information associated with a species or habitat
tolerance threshold to disturbances from anthropogenic activities, is not available and
must be acquired.
The critical habitat for Spotted Gar will be legally protected through the application of
subsection 58(1) of SARA, which prohibits the destruction of any part of the critical
habitat of aquatic species listed as Endangered or Threatened, and of any part of the
critical habitat of aquatic species listed as Extirpated if a recovery strategy has
recommended their reintroduction into the wild in Canada.
40
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Table 12. Human activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat for Spotted Gar
The pathway of affect for each activity is provided as well as the potential links to the biophysical functions, features and attributes of critical
habitat.
Activity
Effect - pathway
Function
Feature
Attribute affected
affected
affected
Changes in bathymetry and shoreline
Habitat modifications:
Spawning
Coastal
• Calm, clear water with little or
Dredging
morphology caused by dredging and near- Nursery
wetlands and
no flow (e.g., quiet
Grading
shore grading and excavation can remove
Feeding
connected
backwaters)
Excavation
(or cover) preferred substrates, change
Cover
quiet
• Shallow water depths (< 1m
Structure removal (e.g.,
water depths, change flow patterns
Migration
backwater
deep)
log salvage)
potentially affecting turbidity, nutrient
areas along
• Dense submergent and
levels, water temperatures, and migration.
the north
emergent vegetation (e.g.,
Removal of in-water structure can remove
shore of Lake
milfoil [Myriophyllum sp.] and
cover and affect feeding success and
Erie: including
curly pondweed [Potamogeton
spawning.
interconnecte
crispus])
d flooded
• Mixture of sand, silt, clay, or
riparian areas
muck substrate
and
• Underwater structure (e.g.,
contributing
branches, cover)
channels.
• Warm water temperatures
(spawning typically occurs
o
from 21 to 26 C; migration to
spawning grounds observed
at 18oC)
• Adequate supply of prey
species (e.g., minnows
[Cyprinidae] and Yellow Perch
[Perca flavescens])
Placing material or structures in water
All (same as
All (same as
All (same as above)
Habitat modifications:
Placement of material or
reduces habitat availability (e.g., the
above)
above)
structures in water (e.g.,
footprint of the infill or structure is lost).
groynes, piers, infilling,
Placement of fill can cover preferred
partial infills, jetties);
substrates, aquatic vegetation and
Shoreline hardening
underwater structure.
Changing shoreline morphology can result
in altered flow patterns, change sediment
depositional areas, cause erosion, and
alter turbidity levels. These changes can
41
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
Activity
Habitat modifications:
Water extraction or
draining of wetlands (e.g.,
ditching, channelization
and diking);
Change in timing,
duration and frequency of
flow
2012
Effect - pathway
affect aquatic plant growth and cause
changes to nutrient levels, and may affect
fish movements.
Hardening of shorelines can reduce
organic inputs into the water and alter
water temperatures potentially affecting
the availability of prey for this species.
Water extraction can reduce the availability
of wetland habitats. Draining wetlands can
reduce the availability of habitat used by
various life-stages of this species. Water
depths can be reduced, affecting aquatic
plant growth, underwater structure that
would provide cover and impact water
temperatures. Organic inputs from drained
wetlands could be reduced, potentially
affecting the availability of prey.
Works associated with the draining of
wetlands (e.g., ditching, channelization
and diking) can cause increased turbidity
levels and alter flows.
Altered flow patterns can affect sediment
deposition (e.g., changing preferred
substrates), availability of flooded
vegetation during spawn, turbidity and
nutrient levels.
42
Function
affected
Feature
affected
Attribute affected
All (same as
above)
All (same as
above)
All (same as above)
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Activity
Effect - pathway
Habitat modifications:
Unfettered livestock
access to waterbodies
When livestock have unfettered access to
waterbodies damage or loss of riparian
and aquatic vegetation can occur.
Resulting damage to shorelines, banks
and watercourse bottoms can cause
increased erosion and sedimentation,
affecting turbidity and water temperatures.
Such access can also increase organic
nutrient inputs into the water, causing
nutrient loading and potentially affecting
aquatic plant growth, promoting algal
blooms and decreasing prey abundance.
Aquatic and riparian
vegetation removal:
Vegetation clearing
(mechanical and
chemical removal)
Turbidity and sediment
loading:
Work in or around water
with improper sediment
and erosion control (e.g.,
use of industrial
equipment, cleaning or
maintenance of bridges
or other structures)
Nutrient loadings:
Over-application of
fertilizer and improper
nutrient management
(e.g., organic debris
management, wastewater
management, animal
waste, septic systems
Attribute affected
Function
affected
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
Feature
affected
All (same as
above)
Removal of aquatic or riparian vegetation
required by the species to spawn and for
cover can negatively affect recruitment and
predation success. Plant die-off following
chemical treatments and the removal of
plant material can also negatively impact
water quality, affect turbidity and water
temperatures.
Improper sediment and erosion control or
inadequate mitigation can cause increased
turbidity levels, potentially reducing feeding
success or prey availability, impacting the
growth of aquatic vegetation and possibly
excluding fish from habitat due to
physiological impacts of sediment in the
water (e.g., gill irritation).
All (same as
above)
All (same as
above)
• All (same as above)
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
Migration
All (same as
above)
• All (same as above)
Poor land management practices and
improper nutrient management can result
in overland runoff and nutrient loading of
nearby waterbodies. Elevated nutrient
levels can cause increased aquatic plant
growth changing water temperatures. The
availability of prey species can also be
affected if prey are sensitive to organic
All (same as
above)
All (same as
above)
All (same as above)
43
• All (same as above)
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Activity
Effect - pathway
and municipal sewage)
pollution.
Deliberate introduction
of exotic species
Feeding by Common Carp can increase
turbidity and uproot aquatic vegetation that
Spotted Gar may use for cover.
The presence of Florida Gar may exclude
Spotted Gar from preferred habitat and
cause increased competition for prey.
The installation of structures that restrict
fish passage can limit the movement of
individuals, fragmenting populations. Flow
alterations sometimes associated with
these structures can impact habitat
availability further (see: Habitat
modifications: change in timing, duration
and frequency of flow). Barriers can alter
water levels upstream and downstream
affecting habitat availability.
Barriers to movement:
Dams, weirs and culverts
(e.g., fish passage
issues)
44
Function
affected
Feature
affected
Attribute affected
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
All (same as
above)
All (same as above)
Spawning
Nursery
Feeding
Cover
Migration
All (same as
above)
All (same as above)
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Certain habitat management activities are recognized as being beneficial to the longterm survival and/or recovery of the species and may be allowed when required. Such
activities may include the removal or control of exotic aquatic/semi-aquatic vegetation;
water level management (including dike maintenance); and habitat restoration activities
(e.g., fire management). For example, in NWAs, water levels may be managed and
some aquatic vegetation may be removed to maintain hemi-marsh conditions (i.e.,
50/50 emergent/open water habitat). Other restoration activities that improve the quality
and/or quantity of available wetland habitat for the Spotted Gar may also be considered
2.8
Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection
Habitat of the Spotted Gar receives general protection from works or undertakings
under the habitat protection provisions of the federal Fisheries Act. The Canadian
Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) also considers the impacts of projects on all
listed wildlife species and their critical habitat where it has been identified. During the
CEAA review of a project, all adverse effects of the project on a listed species and its
critical habitat must be identified. If the project is carried out, measures must be taken
that are consistent with applicable recovery strategies or action plans to avoid or lessen
those effects (mitigation measures) and to monitor those effects.
Critical habitat for the Spotted Gar located in both Point Pelee National Park and Big
Creek NWA will be protected by the prohibition against destruction of critical habitat,
pursuant to subsection 58(2) of the SARA, 90 days after the description of critical
habitat, as identified in the recovery strategy, is published in the Canada Gazette. This
prohibition provides additional protection to that already afforded and available under
the Canada National Parks Act and Canada Wildlife Act, respectively, as well as the
regulations associated with those statutes. Individuals of listed species at risk
populations located on lands and in waters under the administration of the federal
government also receive protection under SARA once the species is listed on Schedule
1 of SARA.
Provincially, protection is also afforded under the provincial Planning Act. Planning
authorities are required to be “consistent with” the provincial Policy Statement under
Section 3 of Ontario’s Planning Act, which prohibits development and site alteration in
the habitat of regulated Endangered and Threatened species. Stream-side
development in Ontario is managed through floodplain regulations enforced by local
conservation authorities. Under the Public Lands Act, a permit may be required for
work in the water and along the shore. The Spotted Gar is listed as a Threatened
species under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. Under the Act, the species
itself is currently protected, and the habitat of the Spotted Gar will be protected under
the general habitat protection provisions of the Act as of June 20, 2013, unless a
species-specific habitat regulation is developed by the provincial government at an
earlier date.
Existing populations of Spotted Gar in Lake Erie are found in Point Pelee National Park,
Rondeau Provincial Park (which represents the eastern portion of the bay only), Long
45
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Point Bay (including the NWA), and Big Creek NWA, which affords the species some
protection. Currently occupied habitat receives additional protection afforded to NWAs
through the Canada Wildlife Act, and provincial parks through the Provincial Parks and
Conservation Reserves Act.
Currently, recommended high priority areas for stewardship include Rondeau Bay
watersheds where land use impacts appear to be compromising habitat conditions
within the bay.
2.9
Effects on other species
It is conceivable that increased populations of Spotted Gar could result in increased
predation of other co-occurring fishes at risk (e.g., Grass Pickerel [Esox americanus
vermiculatus], Lake Chubsucker, Pugnose Shiner [Notropis anogenus] and Warmouth
[Lepomis gulosus]). However, the proposed recovery activities will benefit the
environment in general and are expected to have a net positive effect on other
sympatric native species. While there is potential for conflicts with other species at risk
(aquatic and aquatic-dependent) during recovery implementation, this possibility will be
minimized through strong coordination among the various recovery teams and
groups/government agencies that may be working on species at risk and habitat
management within the coastal wetland areas of Lake Erie. In addition, most
stewardship and habitat improvement activities will be implemented through the EssexErie recovery initiative, which provides for a high awareness of other recovery
programs. DFO, Environment Canada, and PCA recognize that an ecosystem
approach to habitat management is necessary to ensure habitat management decisions
address the needs of all species at risk within overlapping critical habitat areas (e.g.,
Least Bittern [Ixobrychus exilis], Spotted Gar, Lake Chubsucker).
2.10
Recommended approach for recovery implementation
This single species document is one component of recovery implementation for cooccurring species at risk found in the same location. The Ontario Freshwater Fish
Recovery Team recommends making effective use of resources and reducing costs by
coordinating efforts with relevant groups, the EERT and its associated RIGs in the areas
where this species exists. The three coastal wetlands of Lake Erie inhabited by Spotted
Gar have been identified by the EERT as primary core areas for directing recovery
efforts to benefit this species. The EERT and its RIGs include representation from park
agencies responsible for the management of these wetland habitats. This overlap of
individuals affiliated with these plans will help ensure that recovery actions for the
Spotted Gar mesh with existing park management plans. Although Spotted Gar is
included in the Sydenham River recovery strategy (Dextrase et al. 2003), the original
records for this watershed have since been deemed questionable (COSEWIC 2005).
46
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2.11
2012
Statement on action plans
Action plans are documents that describe the activities designed to achieve the
recovery goals and objectives identified in recovery strategies. Under SARA, an action
plan provides the detailed recovery planning that supports the strategic direction set out
in the recovery strategy for the species. The plan outlines what needs to be done to
achieve the recovery goals and objectives identified in the recovery strategy, including
the measures to be taken to address the threats and monitor the recovery of the
species, as well as the measures to protect critical habitat. Action plans offer an
opportunity to involve many interests in working together to find creative solutions to
recovery challenges.
One or more action plans relating to this recovery strategy will be produced within five
years of the final strategy being posted to the SARA registry. These may include multispecies or ecosystem based action plans.
3.
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north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, Massachusetts.
Parker, B. and P. McKee. 1984. Status of the Spotted Gar, Lepisosteus oculatus, in
Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 98(1): 80-86.
Parker, R.S., C.T. Hackney, and M.F. Vidrine. 1984. Ecology and reproductive strategy
of a South Louisiana freshwater mussel, Glebula rotundata (Lamarck)
(Unionidae: Lampsilini). Freshwater Invertebrate Biology 3(2): 53-58.
Razavi, R. 2006. Assessing historical and present day fish habitat in the marshes of
Point Pelee National Park. Senior Honours Thesis. Department of Biology,
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. 65 pp.
Reid, S.M. and N.E. Mandrak. 2008. Historical changes in the distribution of threatened
Channel Darter (Percina copelandi) in Lake Erie with general observations on the
beach fish assemblage. Journal of Great Lakes Research 34: 324-333.
Ricciardi, A. 2006. Patterns of invasion in the Laurentian Great Lakes in relation to
changes in vector activity. Diversity and Distributions 12: 425-433.
Scott, W.B. 1967. Freshwater fishes of eastern Canada. 2nd edition. University of
Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario. 137 pp.
Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1998. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184,
Fisheries Research Board of Canada. Reprinted by Galt House Publications,
Burlington, ON. xvii + 966 pp.
Simon, T.P. and R. Wallus. 1989. Contributions to the early life histories of gar
(Actinopterygii: Lepisosteidae) in the Ohio and Tennessee River Basins with
emphasis on larval development. Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of
Science 50: 59-74.
Snedden, G.A., W.E. Kelso, and D.A. Rutherford. 1999. Diel and seasonal patterns of
Spotted Gar movement and habitat use in the lower Atchafalaya River Basin,
Louisiana. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 128: 144-154.
Staton, S.K., K.L. Vlasman, and A.L. Edwards. 2010. Recovery strategy for the Lake
Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery
Strategy Series, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vi + 49 pp.
Surette, H.J. 2006. Processes influencing temporal variation in fish species composition
in Point Pelee National Park. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.
105 pp.
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
Tyler, J.D. and M.N. Granger.1984. Notes on food habits, size, and spawning behavior
of Spotted Gar in Lake Lawtonka, Oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma
Academy of Science 64: 8-10.
Vélez-Espino, L.A., R.G. Randall, and M.A. Koops. 2008. Quantifying habitat
requirements of four freshwater species at risk in Canada: Northern Madtom,
Spotted Gar, Lake Chubsucker, and Pugnose Shiner. Canadian Science
Advisory Secretariat Research Document 2008/nnn. iv + 20 pp.
Young, J.A.M and M.A. Koops. 2010. Recovery potential modelling of Spotted Gar
(Lepisosteus oculatus) in Canada. DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat
Research Document 2010/078. iv + 19 pp.
4.
RECOVERY TEAM MEMBERS
The following members of the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team were involved in
the development of the recovery strategy for the Spotted Gar:
Shelly Dunn (Chair)
Shawn Staton
Dr. Lynda Corkum
Alan Dextrase
Sandy Dobbyn
Amy Boyko
Bill Glass
Brian Locke
Dr. Nicholas Mandrak
Vicki McKay
Debbie Ming
Mike Nelson
Dr. Scott Reid
Emily Slavik
Dr. Daelyn Woolnough
Jeff Robinson
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
University of Windsor
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (distribution list only)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
University of Windsor
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Parks Canada Agency
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Essex Region Conservation Authority
Trent University
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Trent University
Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
APPENDIX 1. RECORD OF COOPERATION AND CONSULTATION
The Spotted Gar recovery strategy was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
(DFO) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA) with input from the Ontario Freshwater Fish
Recovery Team. This recovery team was chaired by DFO and includes representatives
from PCA, Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service), the Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources (OMNR), Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), Trent
University, and the University of Windsor.
The Spotted Gar is also included in the Essex-Erie recovery strategy (EERS). The
Essex-Erie Recovery Team (EERT), which prepared that strategy, has representatives
from Essex Region Conservation Authority (who co-chaired the team with DFO), Catfish
Creek Conservation Authority, Elgin Stewardship Committee, Essex County
Stewardship Network, Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, Long Point Region
Conservation Authority, OMNR, PCA (Point Pelee National Park), Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority,
Stewardship Kent, and University of Windsor.
DFO has attempted to engage all potentially affected Aboriginal communities in
southern Ontario during the development of the proposed recovery strategy for the
Spotted Gar. Information packages were sent to Chief and Council of Aamjiwnaang
First Nation, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Mississauga of the New Credit,
Moravian of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Six
Nations of the Grand River and Walpole Island First Nation. Caldwell First Nation has a
particular interest in Point Pelee National Park. Information packages were also sent to
Metis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Captain of the Hunt for Region 9 and the MNO senior
policy advisor. Members of these communities may have traveled or harvested fishes
from the waters of Lake Erie where Spotted Gar was historically found. Follow-up
telephone calls were made to each community office to ensure that packages were
received and to ask if they would like to schedule a meeting to learn more about species
at risk in general and proposed recovery strategies.
As a result of these letters and calls, one meeting was held with the Chief and
Councillor for environmental issues of the Munsee - Delaware First Nation. Comments
received during consultation did not result in notable changes to the recovery strategy.
In addition to the above activities, DFO has established an ongoing dialogue with
respect to aquatic species at risk in general with the policy advisor to the Southern First
Nations Secretariat and has engaged the London Chiefs Council (an association of the
eight area First Nation governments in southwestern Ontario) on several occasions.
Meetings have been held with the director of the Walpole Island Heritage Centre and
the Resource Protection Program Enforcement Officer from Walpole Island First Nation
(WIFN). In March 2011, DFO conducted community consultation sessions with WIFN
on several recovery documents, including the present recovery strategy. Feedback and
written comments were received for consideration. DFO also discussed SARA issues
with a representative of the Six Nations of the Grand who works for the Six Nations
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
EcoCentre and who also represents First Nation interests on the Grand River Fishes at
Risk Management Plan, the Thames River Fish Management Plan and the St. Clair
River Management Strategy.
Although many Aboriginal and Métis communities already received a letter from DFO (in
April 2007) regarding a recovery strategy for the Spotted Gar, given the passage of time
and the addition of critical habitat to the recovery strategy, a new letter was sent to First
Nations to invite their comments on the updated strategy. This letter was sent in
advance of the proposed recovery strategy being posted on the SARA Registry.
DFO prepared a list of non-government organizations and municipalities that may be
impacted by the proposed recovery strategy. Information packages were prepared to
inform these groups that the proposed recovery strategy was about to be approved and
invited each group to comment on the strategy. As well, an announcement was
prepared and placed in newspapers with circulation in the area where this fish is known
to exist and was historically found to inform landowners and the general public about
the strategy and to request their comments. These packages were sent and the
announcements published at the time the proposed recovery strategy was posted on
the SARA registry.
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
APPENDIX 2. BACKGROUND DATA SUMMARY AND RATIONALE
FOR AREAS IDENTIFIED AS CRITICAL HABITAT
Point Pelee National Park – The ponds within Point Pelee National Park were
rigorously sampled by Surette (2006) over a two year period, providing an extensive
dataset for this population. Using these data, and the records of Razavi (2006), A.-M.
Cappelli (unpublished data, 2009) and B. Glass (unpublished data, 2009), critical habitat
for the Spotted Gar has been identified using an area of occupancy approach. Areas
historically and presently known as Redhead Pond, Lake Pond, East Cranberry Pond,
and West Cranberry Pond, as identified on the National Topographic System (NTS)
map 40 G/15, and Harrison Pond are recommended critical habitat. The highly
managed watercraft passage between Harrison and Lake Ponds known as Thiessen
Channel (Figure 6) is excluded from this critical habitat description.
Records of Spotted Gar have recently been documented through sampling efforts in
these ponds within Point Pelee National Park. Nineteen records (individuals ranging in
length from 500-629 mm TL) were documented during 605 sampling events across all
Park ponds in 2002 and 2003 (Surette 2006). Nine records were reported in 2005
(Razavi 2006) during a study of Sanctuary and Lake ponds to determine the quality of
the Point Pelee National Park marshes using ecological integrity indicators.
Observations of Spotted Gar within Harrison Pond, with photographic documentation,
were made in May 2009 (A.-M. Cappelli, unpublished data) and a total of 93 Spotted
Gar were captured in West Cranberry and Lake ponds in May 2009 for a genetics study
(B. Glass, UW, unpublished data, 2009).
While visual observations of Spotted Gar, with photographic documentation, were made
in 2009 in Harrison Pond, and in 2007 in Thiessen Channel (S. Staton, pers. obs.),
existing anthropogenic features in these areas, including the Marsh Boardwalk
(stationary and floating sections) and the area it occupies as well as Thiessen Channel,
are excluded from this critical habitat description. The area occupied by the floating
section of the boardwalk is delineated by the outer limits of the paired, metal
containment pilings that the floating section shifts between. Thiessen Channel is
excluded because it has been highly managed (modified and maintained) since at least
1922 to allow for watercraft passage from the western boundary of the marsh into Lake
Pond, and the other connecting ponds (Battin and Nelson 1978).
Rondeau Bay - Up until 2004, only 27 Spotted Gar had been captured at Rondeau
Bay since it was first recorded from this location in 1955; however, in 2007, 210
specimens were caught at Rondeau, including 39 individuals from one net (B. Glass,
UW, unpublished data). Spotted Gar specimens captured in Rondeau Bay since 2002
ranged in length from 433-761 mm TL. These capture data, as well as tracking data,
indicate that Spotted Gar are distributed throughout Rondeau Bay (B. Glass, UW,
unpublished data).
Using these data, the area within which critical habitat for Spotted Gar is currently
found, based on an area of occupancy approach, is identified as the waters and wetland
54
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
areas (including seasonally flooded wetlands) of the entire bay (Figure 8). This includes
the mouths of tributaries flowing into the bay, upstream to the point where a defined
stream channel is observed.
Within Rondeau Provincial Park, the area within which critical habitat for Spotted Gar is
found was further refined using available ELC data for the park. ELC assesses the
distribution and groupings of plant species and attempts to understand them according
to ecosystem patterns and processes. It also helps to establish patterns among
vegetation, soils, geology, landform and climate, at different scales. Using the factors
relating to geology, soils, physiography and vegetation, ELC can be used to map
vegetation communities at varying organizational scales (Lee et al. 1998, Lee et al.
2001). Spotted Gar capture locations within the park were compared with the park ELC
data (Dobbyn and Pasma, in prep.) to determine the wetland vegetation types used by
the species. All areas containing these ELC types were initially included as critical
habitat; however, aquatic habitats that were isolated from the waters of the bay were
excluded as these areas are inaccessible to Spotted Gar. In particular, the areas
identified as wetlands to the east of Marsh Trail actually contain large sections of upland
terrestrial habitats that isolate interior wetland pockets (i.e., sloughs) (S. Dobbyn,
OMNR, pers. comm. 2009). Approximately half of the area within which critical habitat
is identified lies within Rondeau Provincial Park.
Long Point Bay/Big Creek NWA - Limited data are available for the Spotted Gar
population in Long Point Bay; there are currently 11 records for Spotted Gar in Inner
Long Point Bay, the most recent of which is from 2010 (B. Glass, UW, unpublished
data). The species was captured for the first time in Big Creek NWA (connected to
Long Point Bay) in 2004, when two individuals (502 and 566 mm TL) were captured
from one location (L. Bouvier, DFO, pers. comm. 2008). Additionally, Spotted Gar has
been reported from the Long Point Unit (located at the tip of the point) of Long Point
NWA; however, critical habitat has not been identified at this time as the record is 25
years old and was represented by a single specimen.
Using available data, the area within which critical habitat is currently found, based on
an area of occupancy approach and refined using ELC, is identified as the wetland
(including marsh, meadow marsh, shallow marsh, common reed, floating-leaved and
mixed shallow aquatic, and thicket swamp ELC community classes) and aquatic (less
than 2 m depths including open aquatic, submerged shallow aquatic, and opensubmerged-floating-leaved, mixed ELC community classes) areas within Big Creek
NWA, the area around Inner Long Point Bay and the mouth of Big Creek (Figure 7).
Excluded from this description is the interior diked cell within Big Creek NWA where
Spotted Gar have not been detected (the diked cell is not accessible to Spotted Gar).
The area within which critical habitat is found includes all contiguous waters and
wetlands, excluding permanently dry areas, from the causeway west to and including all
of Big Creek NWA to the low-head dike, except habitat contained within the interior
diked cell within the NWA, and including Big Creek proper and all contiguous wetlands
to the north of Big Creek. Within Inner Long Point Bay, the area within which critical
55
Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
habitat is found extends north to the pier at Port Rowan and south, down to, but not
including, the dredged channels of the marina complex (see Figure 7).
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Recovery Strategy for the Spotted Gar in Canada
2012
APPENDIX 3. AQUATIC VEGETATION REMOVAL - GUIDELINES
Nutrient loading leading to excessive overgrowth of aquatic vegetation can reduce the
quality of Spotted Gar habitat. In these situations, it is possible that limited vegetation
removal could benefit the long term survival and recovery of Spotted Gar. Subject to
site-specific reviews, small-scale vegetation removal projects using approved means
may be allowed.
Site-specific reviews may be required for proposed vegetation removal projects
in Spotted Gar habitat. To minimize the potential impacts, the Rondeau Bay Aquatic
Vegetation Issues Working Group in consultation with the Spotted Gar Recovery Team
has recommended the following interim guidelines (2010) for limited vegetation
removals. Note that future research may inform changes to these interim guidelines:
•
•
•
•
removals within the nearshore zone (up to 1 m in water depth) will be restricted
to a perpendicular channel not more than 1 m in width (to minimize potential
harm to spawning and nursery habitat);
private swimming areas will be limited to a maximum area of 6 m x 10 m, in water
depths greater than 1 m;
private boating channels will not exceed 4 m in width in water depths greater
than 1 m;
‘main’ or ‘collector’ boating channels will not exceed 6 m in width.
57
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