Species Profile

Spring Cisco

Scientific Name: Coregonus sp.
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2009
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2bce; B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This species, known from only one small lake in southwestern Quebec, has undergone a drastic decline in abundance over the past 15 years (3 generations). The decline may be related to a combination of factors including habitat degradation and loss resulting from urban and agricultural development, the introduction of non-native species (e.g. Rainbow Smelt and Atlantic Salmon), and climate change.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1992. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 2009.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2013-03-08

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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

Image of Spring Cisco

Spring Cisco Photo 1

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Description

The spring cisco is a small silver-sided fish with a back that changes from blue-green to black. These fish are only found in Quebec's Lac-des-Écorces and spawn in the spring. The spring cisco is a close relative to the lake herring; which spawns in the autumn and has a much larger distribution. In comparison, the spring cisco is shorter in length, has a smaller head and a thinner and shorter caudal peduncle. Adults typically measure between 15 and 30 cm long.

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Distribution and Population

It has been estimated that the spring cisco population has significantly decreased over the last 15 years. The species is only found in one lake in the province of Quebec called Lac des Écorces (located in the Antoine-Labelle Regional County Municipality). The population was only recently discovered, the first reports of spring cisco dating from 1981. The distribution range of the fish corresponds to the whole lake, which totals an area of 6.58 km².

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Habitat

The spring cisco seems to prefer well oxygenated and cold water (12°C or less). The species is found throughout the entire Lac des Écorces. Since the adults prefer cold water, they are found in the deepest parts of the lake during the summer season and mainly spawn in the deepest pools of the lake. The larvae and juvenile fish occupy the top section of the water.

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Biology

The spring cisco reaches sexual maturity at three years of age and it is rare for the species to live beyond eight years. The pelagic larvae of the cisco are planktivorous and feed almost exclusively on copepods and cladocerans. Adults in search of food remain in the hypolimnion during the summer season. They feed on plankton, but have a varied diet consisting of insects, eggs, small fish and crustaceans. This small fish serves as prey for several types of piscivorous fish.

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Threats

The fact that the sole population of the spring cisco is found in a single lake presents a significant vulnerability for the species. The relative abundance indices of this population show a steady decline over the last 15 years. The suspected causes for this decline are predation and competition from other non-native species, particularly the rainbow smelt, as well as deterioration of the lake's overall water quality due to residential development (e.g., artificial banks and defective septic tanks) and agriculture (e.g., runoff from chemical products and fertilizers).

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Spring Cisco is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The spring cisco is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide. The Fisheries Act prohibits destruction of fish habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

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

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Spring Cisco (Coregonus sp.)
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

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

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Spring Cisco Coregonus sp. in Canada (2009-08-28)

    Spring Cisco (Coregonus sp.) may represent a valid taxon that has not yet been described. The single Canadian population of this taxon was first discovered in May 1981 when ready-to-spawn or partially spawned individuals were collected. Spring Cisco spawn between mid-May and early June. They are closely related to fall-spawning Cisco, Coregonus artedi, which are more widely distributed. However, Spring Cisco is shorter in length, has a smaller head and a narrower and shorter caudal peduncle. The anal fins contain 11 rays for Spring Cisco and between 12.1 to 12.5 rays for fall-spawning C. artedi. The number of gill rakers on the first gill arch is the most distinctive morphological criterion. Spring-spawning ciscoes have an average of 42.7-gill rakers as opposed to 50.5 for fall-spawning ciscoes in surrounding lakes.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Spring Cisco (2009-11-25)

    This species, known from only one small lake in southwestern Quebec, has undergone a drastic decline in abundance over the past 15 years (3 generations). The decline may be related to a combination of factors including habitat degradation and loss resulting from urban and agricultural development, the introduction of non-native species (e.g. Rainbow Smelt and Atlantic Salmon), and climate change.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Spring Cisco (Coregonus sp.) (2014-02-13)

    The Spring Cisco is the only population of its kind to spawn in the spring; the other cisco populations reproduce in the fall. The relatively high water temperature in deep water in the summer and the slow cooling off in the fall is a possible explanation for the spawning period and the evolution of this population in Lac des Écorces. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada deems that this population, which does not exist anywhere else, is an endangered species. The status and size of the population are unknown, but fish survey catches have fallen drastically over the last 15 years.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act(volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 147, number 7, 2013) (2013-03-27)

    This Order adds seven aquatic species to Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and reclassifies two species on Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1). This Order also amends Schedule 1 by striking out one species previously listed as a single designatable unit and adding two new designatable units of the same species in its place. One designatable unit of a terrestrial species, currently also listed as part of a broader designatable unit, is struck out to eliminate duplication. These amendments are being made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment with advice from the other competent minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. A related Order under section 76 of SARA will exempt activities authorized under the Fisheries Act from the prohibitions of SARA for a period of one year for one of the species being added to Schedule 1 (Westslope Cutthroat Trout).

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#21-PQUE-00021), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2021-05-24)

    This work involves revalidating the presence of Spring Cisco in Lac des Écorces, collect egg samples from females and test Spring Cisco capture methods that will not cause injury or mortality. These activities are aimed at developing DNA primers and validating the relevance and feasibility of an artificial breeding program. A second objective is to verify whether other fish species frequent Spring Cisco spawning areas during the breeding season and feed on cisco eggs. Pennsylvania-style trap nets will be used in conjunction with holding cages. The cage mesh is ¼ inch in size, while the leader mesh is 1 inch in size. An underwater camera installed on the holding cage of a trap net and linked to the surface via cable will make it possible to directly observe the presence of trapped fish. The observation period may be shorter or longer, depending on fishing success. Divers will be on site at all times to check on activity in the cages. In addition, they will be responsible for bringing captured fish to the surface by transferring them into a PVC cage. As the fish are being hauled up, they will be observed at regular intervals to ensure their well-being.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#MPO-LEP-QC-16-002), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-05-16)

    The presence of spring cisco in the Lac des Écorces has not been confirmed since 2008, after a marked decline owing to the introduction of rainbow smelt, a cisco predator and competitor. Following an effort to remove rainbow smelt from the lake, it became necessary to check whether the spring cisco population was still present. The presence of spring cisco in the ecosystem will be checked by a fishery with four experimental brook trout nets and four two-inch (5-cm) experimental mesh nets The sites sampled will be located on spawning grounds that have been historically recognized since 1983 and monitored since 1994.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#MPO-LEP-QC-20-017), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-09-21)

    The objective of this work is to test methods for capturing Spring Cisco (by diving) that will not cause injuries or mortality and to carry out a prefeasibility study on the potential for transferring specimens to tanks for artificial reproduction with the ultimate aim of reintroducing the species. According to the applicant, this is the first initiative that involves having divers capture live fish in gillnets in the freshwater environment and then place them aboard a boat. The project is aimed at confirming the technical feasibility of the protocol and the survival rate of the fish. Brook trout gillnets (25-76 mm mesh) will be used to catch live Spring Cisco at two sites where its presence was confirmed in the past. Two divers will check the two nets simultaneously every hour (approximately), so that they can carefully remove the fish from the nets without injuring them. A maximum of ten (10) live Spring Cisco will be brought to the surface; fishing activities will cease once this number has been reached. The fish will be weighed, photographed and then returned to the water.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation Workbook on the addition of the Spring Cisco to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (2010-02-12)

    This workbook provides background information on government requirements for adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, and on the nature and application of SARA provisions. This general information is outlined in Part 1. Part 2 describes the current status of the Spring Cisco, based on assessments provided by the COSEWIC. Part 3, which is detachable, consists of a questionnaire to be filled out and returned. It is intended to assist you in articulating your concerns and advice.

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the Spring Cisco (Coregonus sp.) Order (2018-07-25)

    The recovery goal, as set out in the Recovery Strategy, is to improve the status of the Spring Cisco and increase the species’ abundance. Efforts to meet the population and distribution objectives are ongoing and supported by the measures described in the Recovery Strategy. Current threats to the Spring Cisco, as identified in the Recovery Strategy, include new residential areas (principal and secondary residences) that have gradually been built along the banks of Lac des Écorces. The water quality, and therefore the quality of the Spring Cisco’s habitat, has deteriorated. Additionally, many fish species have been introduced to the lake to encourage recreational fishing. The recent colonization of the lake by the Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax), noted in 1999, seems to have become the main threat to the Spring Cisco’s recovery, since the Rainbow Smelt is a predator and competes with ciscos.
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