Informing Species at Risk Recovery Efforts

As an NSERC Visiting Fellow with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences my research is directed toward informing recovery efforts for freshwater fish listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA 2002). The SARA is federal legislation in Canada designed to protect species at risk of extinction and aid in their recovery. Once a species has been listed as Threatened, Endangered, or Extirpated under the SARA, a recovery strategy is drafted that provides goals and strategies for recovering that species. Ultimately, the purpose of the any recovery strategy is to stop the decline of the species and, through protection, hopefully improve its status. My postdoctoral position at Fisheries and Oceans Canada is directed towards one particular strategy for recovering Species at Risk: repatriation.

Species repatriation (*commonly referred to as reintroduction – but see my blog post at RapidEcology about this terminology) describes the release of species into areas from which they have been extirpated with the goal of re-establishing self-sustaining populations. Examples of repatriation for freshwater fishes in Canada are relatively rare despite being identified as a vital approach in several federal Recovery Strategies (Lamothe et al. 2019). Of the SARA-listed freshwater fish species, repatriation or supplementation efforts have only been directed towards 5 SARA-listed species, including Atlantic Whitefish, Copper Redhorse, Striped Bass, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and White Sturgeon. However, repatriation is challenging (*see my blog post at FlyFishOntario to learn more about these challenges) and there are several hurdles that delay the implementation of repatriation efforts for other species in Canada including knowledge of basic species ecology, historical and present day environmental stressors, stocking considerations, and policy considerations. But when is there enough information?

In addition to broadly investigating questions relevant to repatriation, I am also working on applied questions to encourage repatriation efforts in southern Ontario. In particular, my current research is dedicated towards understanding the abiotic requirements and considerations around co-occurring species when making repatriation decisions for three SARA-listed species: Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida; pictured below), Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus), and Northern Madtom (Noturus stigmosus). Stay tuned for progress!


Two Eastern Sand Darters, Ammocrypta pellucida, from the Grand River, Ontario, Canada. Eastern Sand Darter is a Threatened species in Canada