Species Profile

Atlantic Whitefish

Scientific Name: Coregonus huntsmani
Other/Previous Names: Acadian Whitefish,Coregonus canadensis
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: Nova Scotia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2010
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

This species, a unique Canadian endemic present in only a single location, is restricted to three interconnected lakes in Nova Scotia. Its viability is threatened by illegal introduction of exotic fishes.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2000 and November 2010.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

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 | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Atlantic Whitefish

Atlantic Whitefish Photo 1

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Description

The Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) belongs to the salmon and trout family (Salmonidae). It has the following external features: silvery sides, a silvery-to-white belly and a dark blue-to-dark green back; an elongated body and a mouth opening at the end of its snout; dorsal fin and forked tail fin are dusky in colour; and a small, fleshy fin between the dorsal and tail fins known as an adipose fin, which is typical of members of the salmon and trout family. Adult fish range from 20-25 centimeter (cm) fork length (FL) for lake-residents and average 38 cm FL for sea-going individuals. The more commonly occurring Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) is similar in appearance but genetically distinct from the Atlantic Whitefish. Lake Whitefish can be distinguished from Atlantic Whitefish based on several external characteristics, including a mouth opening below the snout, a longer pectoral fin ray and relatively larger scales.

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Distribution and Population

Unique to Canada, Atlantic Whitefish have been reported only in the Tusket River and Petite Rivière watersheds in southwestern Nova Scotia. In the Tusket River, Atlantic Whitefish were anadromous, meaning they migrated to the ocean and returned to freshwater to spawn. This population no longer exists. The Petite Rivière population is lake-resident, meaning they complete their lifecycle in freshwater and do not migrate to the ocean. This population represents the last remaining wild population of Atlantic Whitefish in the world. Its population size is currently unknown but is likely small. Genetic work undertaken in 2012 by a PhD student at Dalhousie University suggests that less than 40 individuals may make up the effective population size for Atlantic Whitefish (that is the number of individuals that can contribute genes to the next generation). This estimate is among the smallest reported for single populations of fish, let alone an entire fish species, and provides support for the presumed small population size of the species.

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Habitat

Atlantic Whitefish habitat is limited to 3 small interconnected freshwater lakes within the upper Petite Rivière watershed. The lakes are characterized by silt bottoms and rocky shorelines and their average annual pH is greater than 5.6. The maximum depth in Hebb, Milipsigate and Minamkeak lakes is 15 meters, 16 meters and 21 meters, respectively. Atlantic Whitefish prefer cool water and are rare or absent in surface waters during the summer. The habitat preferences of juvenile Atlantic Whitefish are not well understood but juveniles have been observed in nearshore areas. Controlled laboratory experiments have shown that for all life history stages, low pH decreases the survival of Atlantic Whitefish. These experiments have also shown that Atlantic Whitefish juveniles exhibit growth in water temperatures between 11.7°C and 24°C and optimum growth occurs at 16.5°C. The Tusket River Atlantic Whitefish population was anadromous (meaning it spawned in fresh water but spent much of its life at sea). Despite the lack of recorded evidence, Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Rivière also likely occurred as an anadromous population prior to the construction of dams with inadequate fish passage. Anadromous Atlantic Whitefish were believed to inhabit coastal waters during the summer and likely migrated into fresh water for the winter to spawn before returning to the sea in the spring.

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Biology

Little is known about the biology of the Atlantic Whitefish. Spawning locations, times and preferred spawning habitat in the wild are unknown. In captivity, Atlantic Whitefish spawn from mid-November to early January. The maximum age of wild Atlantic Whitefish is estimated to be 4 to 5 years and the average age of wild spawners is estimated to be approximately 3 to 4 years. During the spring and fall, adult Atlantic Whitefish feed on small fish and invertebrates. Anadromous Atlantic Whitefish likely fed on amphipods, small periwinkles and marine worms while at sea.

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Threats

Several factors may have contributed to the species’ extirpation (end of local existence) in the Tusket River system. The damming of the Tusket River in 1929 interfered with the migratory movement of the Atlantic Whitefish for many years and rising acidity in some portions of the river may have negatively affected their reproductive success. Incidental capture of Atlantic Whitefish in Gaspereau fisheries and poaching in the Tusket River fishways are also believed to have contributed to this decline. In the Petite Rivière, the construction of dams with inadequate fish passage between the sea and the lakes may have caused the demise of the anadromous population in the area. Past fishing activities, including bycatch in Gaspereau fisheries and directed angling, may also have been contributing factors. Currently, interactions with illegally introduced aquatic invasive species (Smallmouth Bass and Chain Pickerel) pose a significant threat to the survival of this last remaining population of Atlantic Whitefish.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Atlantic Whitefish 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.

Atlantic Whitefish were listed as Endangered under SARA in 2003. For listed Endangered species like the Atlantic Whitefish, SARA contains provisions that protect individuals, their residences and their critical habitat. The 3 Petite Rivière lakes were identified as critical habitat for the Atlantic Whitefish in the recovery strategy and a Critical Habitat Order is in place to provide for the protection of this critical habitat from destruction. Atlantic Whitefish and their habitat also receive protection via Canada’s Fisheries Act. The Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations under the Fisheries Act have prohibited the possession and retention of Atlantic Whitefish since 1993. Provincial legislation also protects the Atlantic Whitefish and its habitat. Atlantic Whitefish are listed as Endangered under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act. As well, Minamkeak, Milipsigate and Hebb lakes have been designated as a Watershed Protected Water Area under the Nova Scotia Environment Act since 2006. The conservation of species at risk is a responsibility shared by all jurisdictions in Canada. As such, SARA recognizes this joint responsibility and that all Canadians have a role to play in the protection of wildlife. More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in A guide to your responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act. For information on how provincial or territorial laws protect the species, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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 Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Recovery Activities DFO and its partners have undertaken a variety of recovery actions to date to support the survival and recovery of Atlantic Whitefish. Management measures to restrict recreational angling targeting other species have been put in place on the Petite Rivière to avoid interactions with Atlantic Whitefish. Early laboratory experiments (2007-2008), undertaken by a PhD student from Dalhousie University, evaluated the species tolerance and adaptability to various salt water, temperature and pH levels. These experiments demonstrated that the lake-resident population of Atlantic Whitefish has retained its salt water tolerance.1 DFO developed and documented an Atlantic Whitefish culture methodology and captive-reared Atlantic Whitefish were released into Anderson Lake, Nova Scotia (2005 to 2012). This release effort was both an experiment to evaluate the feasibility of using captive-reared fish to establish a new population outside of the Petite Rivière system and the first range expansion recovery effort undertaken towards establishing a back-up population of Atlantic Whitefish. Although the establishment of a new population wasn’t successful, the releases showed positive signs of success (e.g., growth and maturation) and confirmation that captive-bred individuals can be used to establish new populations. Since 2004, Coastal Action, a local non-government environmental organization and one of DFO’s primary partners in Atlantic Whitefish recovery, has undertaken many activities to advance their Atlantic Whitefish Recovery Project. Initially, this project focused on raising awareness about Atlantic Whitefish and building a strong local stewardship foundation. Now, the project has expanded to undertake various monitoring and more direct recovery actions, such as invasive species mitigation and efforts towards facilitating future range expansion activities. In 2011 and 2012, a fishway at Hebb Lake Dam was built by the Bridgewater Public Service Commission to facilitate fish passage and has been monitored annually by Coastal Action since. In 2014, a 3-year boat-based electrofishing program in the Petite Rivière lakes was implemented in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Inland Fisheries Division to evaluate the potential to reduce the abundance of aquatic invasive species in Atlantic Whitefish habitat. DFO invasive species mitigation efforts are ongoing in collaboration with Coastal Action and have expanded to include other methods. Dalhousie University became an important partner in Atlantic Whitefish recovery in 2018 when juvenile Atlantic Whitefish, that were collected from the wild as larvae, were taken to Dalhousie’s Aquatron Laboratory. These fish, and additional larvae collected in subsequent years, are the only captive-held stock of Atlantic Whitefish in the world and will form the founding broodstock for any future range expansion efforts. In 2021, efforts to breed the maturing fish were initiated. The Dalhousie Marine Gene Probe Laboratory has been undertaking both genetic and environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis in support of Atlantic Whitefish recovery. The lab is developing eDNA methods for assessing the genetic diversity and local abundance of Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Rivière Lakes. If successful, these methods could also be applied as monitoring tools to any potential future locations where the species may be introduced. Future intentions are to map the Atlantic Whitefish’s entire genome. To prepare for future recovery measures, the Dalhousie Aquatron Laboratory, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) and Coastal Action are working to construct a streamside rearing trailer with the purpose of introducing young Atlantic Whitefish to a potential new waterbody. DFO, NSSA and Coastal Action are also surveying Nova Scotia lakes to determine their suitability as Atlantic Whitefish habitat. More detail on activities undertaken and progress towards recovery can be found in the 5-year reports on progress.

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.

29 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

  • Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada for the Period 2007-2012 (2016-06-09)

    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is the competent minister for the recovery of the endangered Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). DFO has led the development and implementation of the strategic directions set out in the Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada (DFO 2006), published in February 2007, in collaboration with many different constituencies, including the long-standing multi-stakeholder/multi-interest advisory Atlantic Whitefish Conservation and Recovery Team (AWCRT; Appendix A).

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Atlantic Whitefish Coregonus huntsmani in Canada (2011-09-09)

    The Atlantic Whitefish (subfamily Coregoninae) has silvery sides, a white belly and a black, dark green or blue back. Wild fish in the existing population attain a maximum fork length of approximately 300 mm. The Atlantic Whitefish is morphologically and meristically differentiated from Lake Whitefish by its more terminal mouth, shorter pectoral fins, and greater lateral line scale (>90) and vertebrae (>64) counts. Mitochondrial DNA (COI) sequence data confirm that the Atlantic Whitefish is a distinct species that is strongly differentiated from other whitefishes.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Atlantic Whitefish (2011-12-08)

    This species, a unique Canadian endemic present in only a single location, is restricted to three interconnected lakes in Nova Scotia. Its viability is threatened by illegal introduction of exotic fishes.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada (2018-03-08)

    The amended Recovery Strategy restates the overall goal and broad strategies that continue to be relevant and realistic to protect and recover Atlantic Whitefish. The document has been updated to take into account changing conditions, including providing new information on threats and population and distribution objectives. The amended Recovery Strategy also identifies critical habitat for Atlantic Whitefish.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada (2018-03-08)

    The Atlantic Whitefish, Coregonus huntsman (Scott 1987), is globally unique and therefore a significant component of Canada’s biodiversity. The species was historically found in only two watersheds in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada: the Tusket River in Yarmouth County and the Petite Rivière in Lunenburg County. Currently the only wild self-sustaining population of Atlantic Whitefish exists largely restricted within three small, interconnected, semi-natural lakes in the upper Petite Rivière drainage area (DFO 2016a). This Action Plan addresses the species’ entire global distribution with the intent of implementing the overall recovery goal of the Recovery Strategy, which is to: “Achieve stability in the current population of Atlantic Whitefish in Nova Scotia, re-establishment of the anadromous form, and expansion beyond its current range”.
  • Atlantic Whitefish Action Plan Summary Statement (2009-09-01)

    The Species at Risk Act (SARA) requires the development of one or more action plans based on the recovery strategy for those species listed as endangered or threatened on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1). The Atlantic Whitefish is among those species listed as endangered under SARA. In February of 2007, DFO posted the final Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada, which sets out the goals, objectives, and approaches for recovering the species, and the timelines for completion of the first action plan. In accordance with the recovery strategy, an action plan for Atlantic Whitefish was to be completed within 2 years.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011-09-09)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2009-029), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2009-09-29)

    For the ongoing live gene bank work, Atlantic whitefish will be collected, reared, mated and released by trained professionals in support of the recovery objectives. Some fish may be released in the Petite system below Hebb's lake dam in support of research into fish movements in the system and recovery research. To understand the status of the population, trained professionals will undertake surveys of various stages of the Atlantic whitefish in the Petite system, principally on Minamkeak, Millipsigate and Hebb's lakes, the portion of the Petite Riviere lying below Hebbville Dam, and the Petite Rivière Estuary. This work may also involve investigations and capture of other fish species in the system to better understand the ecosystem and whitefish population health. Some fish may be tagged with hydroacoustic tags for monitoring their movements in the system. Survey work including limited assessment work will also be undertaken in Anderson Lake, Halifax County, and its tributaries. Field collections will be conducted through electrofishing, the use of fyke, seine, trap, or similar nets, or angling. Juvenile fish may be captured with specialized gear such as minnow traps. Some fish may have hydroacoustic tags surgically implanted in them for monitoring fish movements in Petite Riviere.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2010-026), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-09-02)

    The project encompasses presence-absence fish survey activities as part of an Environmental Assessment for the proposed extension of Highway 107 Extension to Highway 102. Anderson Lake and at least one tributary fall within the study area in which a habitat assessment and fish presence-absence survey is required. Survey methods in Anderson Lake, where Atlantic Whitefish are known to be found will be limited to minnow traps and where the substrate allows, some seining may be undertaken in shallow littoral areas. Electrofishing will be conducted in one or more tributaries to Anderson Lake, where it is less likely to encounter Atlantic Whitefish.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2011-021), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2011-05-30)

    Hebb and Milipsigate Lakes are both identified as critical habitat for Atlantic Whitefish in the recovery strategy for Atlantic Whitefish. The purpose of the proposed activities is to evaluate the quantity and diversity of fish and other aquatic organisms in these lakes as part of an ongoing monitoring program. Sampling will be conducted using minnow traps, beach seine nets, and angling from 2-4 times per week during the period of June to August 2011. Atlantic Whitefish are known to occur in these lakes and may be one the species that are captured, handled, and measured using the proposed methods. All captured fish that are alive will be released at the point of capture. Any incidental mortalities of Atlantic Whitefish will be retained and stored until they can be transferred to DFO (Rod Bradford) for scientific purposes.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2012-01), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-03-15)

    Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (BCAF) propose to undertake research to address several knowledge gaps surrounding the migration patterns, habitat use, and interspecific interactions of the endangered Atlantic Whitefish, particularly in support of DFO's Hebb Lake Dam Fish Passage Facility Interim Monitoring Plan. The proposed research will take place in the Petite Riviere system and will involve the handling, biological sampling, and live-release of individuals of Atlantic Whitefish captured by rotary screw trap, electrofishing or by the live-trap installed at the Hebbville Dam Fish Passage Facility. Also, Smallmouth Bass will be angled within Hebb Lake and some individuals may be sacrificed for stomach-content analysis to determine if they are a predator of Atlantic Whitefish. Scales, fin clips or entire individuals (if found dead) from captured individuals of Atlantic Whitefish or from the stomach contents of angled Smallmouth Bass will be retained and provided to DFO Science (Rod Bradford) for long-term use and storage. All research will take place from mid-April until September 30, 2012. The proposed activities are expected to result in impacts to Atlantic Whitefish that are prohibited by SARA, namely, capture, harassment, possession of parts, and potentially killing or harming. Critical habitat is not yet identified in a recovery document for this species and therefore no impacts to critical habitat are expected or possible
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2012-08), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-04-25)

    The proposed activities include: 1) Support for the Hebb Lake Dam Fish Passage Facility Interim Monitoring Plan (2011) that was prepared by the DFO Species at Risk Management Division in collaboration with the Atlantic Whitefish Hebb Dam Fish Passage Working Group, a sub-group of the Atlantic Whitefish Recovery Team. The interim monitoring plan is designed to allow the passage of wild Atlantic Whitefish upstream into Hebb Lake, near Bridgewater, NS, while collecting information on other species using the passage. This information will support the development of a long-term operational plan for fishway. Biological measurements and samples may be taken. 2) Year-round activities for DFO's Live Gene Bank Program for Atlantic Whitefish at the Mersey Biodiversity Facility. In support of recovery objectives, program activities include collection, mating, rearing, and releasing of Atlantic Whitefish. Mortality will occur naturally at the facility, as well as through lethal sampling for the purpose of fish disease testing. Non-lethal biological sampling for the purpose of aging or genetic analysis and surgical implantation of pit tags and acoustic transmitters may also take place. 3) Ongoing monitoring of Atlantic Whitefish in Anderson Lake between April and November. Activities include capture and release of individuals using a floating trap net and in the event of mortality, biological measurements and samples will be taken. All biological samples from the above activities will be stored and analysed at DFO facilities (Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Mersey Biodiversity Facility, or the Fish Health Unit).
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2012-18), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-10-18)

    To survey a population of released Atlantic Whitefish in Anderson Lake, Nova Scotia to determine health of individuals and their reproductive status. Individuals will be live-trapped using a single floating trapnet positioned 30 meters from the shore of Anderson Lake. Trapping will be conducted on a regular schedule; one week every three weeks between October 15th and December 15th, 2012. During active sampling periods, the trap will be set on weekdays with daily checks at dawn and any catch examined and enumerated. Any non-target species will be enumerated and released from the trap. The trap will be opened Monday morning and closed Friday morning following enumeration of the previous day's catch. Prior to release, Atlantic Whitefish will be examined to collect total and fork lengths, weight, and record external markings (fin clips, elastomer tags, etc.) and reproductive condition.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2013-05), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2013-03-21)

    Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (BCAF) propose to undertake research to address several knowledge gaps surrounding the migration patterns, habitat use, and interspecific interactions of the endangered Atlantic Whitefish, particularly in support of DFO's Hebb Lake Dam Fish Passage Facility Interim Monitoring Plan. The proposed research will take place in the Petite Riviere system and will involve the handling, biological sampling, and live-release of individuals of Atlantic Whitefish captured by rotary screw trap, electrofishing, or by the live-trap installed at the Hebbville Dam Fish Passage Facility. Also, smallmouth bass will be angled within Hebb Lake and some individuals may be sacrificed for stomach-content analysis to determine if they are a predator of Atlantic Whitefish. Scales, fin clips, or entire individuals (if found dead) from captured individuals of Atlantic Whitefish or from the stomach contents of angled smallmouth bass will be retained and provided to DFO Science for long-term use and storage. All research will take place from mid-April until December 31, 2013. The proposed activities are expected to result in impacts to Atlantic Whitefish that are prohibited by SARA, namely, capture, harassment, possession of parts, and potentially killing or harming. Critical habitat is not yet identified in a recovery document for this species and therefore there will be no impacts to critical habitat.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2013-15), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2013-09-20)

    Dillon Consulting Limited has been contracted by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NSTIR) to complete an environmental assessment of the proposed Highway 107 extension and alignment. To allow for proper assessment of highway design and mitigation, Dillon is proposing to undertake sampling of fish habitat which may be inhabited by Atlantic Whitefish. The proposed sampling will take place in the tributaries to Anderson Lake and Wrights Brook and may involve the capture and live-release of Atlantic Whitefish via electrofishing or minnow traps. All electrofishing sampling will take place from September 23-30, 2013, and all trapping between September 23 and October 15, 2013. Should Atlantic Whitefish be encountered, the proposed activities are expected to result in impacts to Atlantic Whitefish that are prohibited by SARA, namely, capture, harassment and potentially killing or harming. Critical habitat is not yet identified in a recovery document for this species, therefore there will be no impacts to critical habitat.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2013-18), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2013-11-15)

    The 11 Atlantic whitefish currently housed at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) will be transferred to the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture's Aquaculture Centre in Truro. These fish are the product of spawning wild Atlantic Whitefish at the Mersey Biodiversity Facility about ten years ago. The purpose of this project is: (1) to develop technical expertise in the successful transport of Atlantic Whitefish; (2) assess the potential for adult Atlantic Whitefish of an advanced age to mature and spawn; and (3) to assess the suitability of untreated local groundwater sources at the facility for housing and rearing Atlantic Whitefish. Any fertilized eggs will be cultured to produce larvae and juveniles at the facility. Any progeny successfully produced will be kept on site and plans for the fish will be determined upon consultation with DFO. The permit is valid for approximately one year, over which time a longer term plan for the fish and any offspring produced will be developed by DFO. The methods proposed will not affect the survival of wild Atlantic Whitefish. This project is part of a contingency plan to mitigate the impact of invasive species in the Atlantic Whitefish natural habitat and support recovery of the species. The proposed activities are expected to result in impacts to Atlantic Whitefish that are prohibited by SARA, namely harassment. Due to the advanced age of the animals, natural mortality is expected. If spawning is successful, some mortality of eggs, larvae and juveniles is expected during culturing and rearing activities.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2014-02), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2014-04-23)

    The abundance and distribution of Atlantic Whitefish in Anderson Lake, N.S. will be monitored to determine if past stocking efforts have resulted in the persistence of the species. The following methods will be used: boat mounted electrofishing unit, trap nets, and angling. Gill nets may be used only if other sampling techniques are not successful in confirming the presence of Atlantic Whitefish. The abundance and distribution of Atlantic Whitefish in the Petite Riviere Lakes, N.S. will be monitored using the following methods: boat mounted electrofishing unit, trap nets, angling, and rotary screw trap. In Minamkeak Lake, gill nets may be used only if other sampling techniques are not successful in confirming the presence of Atlantic Whitefish. Boat electrofishing will be undertaken in the Petite Riviere Watershed to remove invasive smallmouth bass and chain pickerel. Interactions with Atlantic Whitefish could occur unintentionally during this activity. In the event that any Atlantic Whitefish are killed, biological samples will be taken and preserved/archived at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2014-03), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2014-04-24)

    Smallmouth Bass and Chain Pickerel are invasive species in the Petite Rivière watershed and pose a threat to the survival and recovery of Atlantic Whitefish. Activities will be undertaken to collect biological data about these invasive species, to remove invasive species from the watershed, and to evaluate the effectiveness of different removal methods. These activities are required to inform future recovery measures and for threat reduction. Fish will be captured using a rotary screw trap at the Milipsigate Lake outlet and via angling within all three Petitie Rivière watershed lakes, but with focused effort at the Milipsigate Lake outlet. These activities have the potential to interact with Atlantic Whitefish since they may also be captured using these methods. Captured invasive species will be removed from the water and killed.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2015-09), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2015-05-04)

    Smallmouth Bass and Chain Pickerel are invasive species in the Petite Rivière watershed and pose a threat to the survival and recovery of Atlantic Whitefish. Activities will be undertaken to collect biological data about these invasive species, to remove invasive species from the watershed, and to evaluate the effectiveness of different removal methods. These activities are required to inform future recovery measures and for threat reduction. The activities include:  Operation and monitoring of a rotary screw trap in Hebb Lake from September to November to capture invasive species.  Angling in the Petite Rivière watershed from July to September 2015 to capture invasive species.  Backpack electrofishing within the Petite Rivière Watershed to remove young-of-the-year Chain Pickerel from the system.  Deployment and monitoring of a fyke net to investigate the downstream migration of young-of-the-year Gaspereau and young-of-the year Atlantic Whitefish.  Operation and monitoring of the fish trap in the Hebb Dam fish passage facility from September to December.  Capture of Atlantic Whitefish during the above activities and handling necessary to release them from the trap or hook.  Possession of Atlantic Whitefish (or their parts) incidentally killed as a result of any the activities listed above.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2015-14), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2015-05-25)

    The following activities are needed to support establishing an abundance estimate for Atlantic Whitefish.  During May and June, five to ten wild Atlantic Whitefish will be collected at the base of the Milipsigate dam using a dip net.  Scale samples will be collected to enable age determination of the fish and to provide a supply of tissue from which DNA can be extracted as required.  Fish will be tagged using a streamer tag inserted into the dorsal surface below the dorsal fin. Cameras will be used to record marked and unmarked fish and this information will be used to estimate population size.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2015-19), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2015-07-07)

    An electrofishing boat will be operated in the Petite Rivière watershed to capture and remove invasive Chain Pickerel and Smallmouth Bass from the system. These species are considered a significant threat to the endangered Atlantic Whitefish. Most of the electrofishing will be carried out in Hebb Lake. This activity targets nearshore areas at depths between two and six feet that young-of-the-year invasive species are known to inhabit.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2016-03), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-04-14)

    Smallmouth Bass and Chain Pickerel are invasive species in the Petite Rivière watershed and pose a threat to the survival and recovery of Atlantic Whitefish. Activities will be undertaken to capture these invasive species, collect biological data, and remove them from the watershed. The effectiveness of the different removal methods will be evaluated. The activities include: Operation and monitoring of a rotary screw trap in Hebb Lake in the spring and fall, angling in the Petite Rivière watershed from April to October, and backpack electrofishing within the Petite Rivière watershed from May to October. To monitor Atlantic Whitefish: Floating trapnets will be deployed and operated in the Hebb, Milipsigate and Minamkeak Lakes from May to November, and the fish trap in the Hebb Dam fish passage facility will be operated in the spring and fall. Any invasive species captured in the floating trapnets or fish trap will be destroyed. Any captured Atlantic Whitefish will be released alive following measurement. Any mortalties will be retained for research purposes.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2016-05), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-05-18)

    An electrofishing boat will be operated in the Petite Rivière watershed to capture and remove invasive Chain Pickerel and Smallmouth Bass from the system. These species are considered a significant threat to the endangered Atlantic Whitefish. Most of the electrofishing will be carried out in Hebb Lake. This activity targets nearshore areas at depths between 0.6 and 1.8 meters that young-of-the-year invasive species are known to inhabit.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-MAR-2016-11), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-11-07)

    A survey will be conducted in Anderson Lake, N.S. where Atlantic Whitefish were introduced from 2005 to 2012. The objectives for the survey are to confirm the continued presence of Atlantic Whitefish in the lake, and to establish the catch level that could be expected using floating traps. Based on the number of Atlantic Whitefish that are captured, decisions can be made about future recovery actions involving range expansion. Floating fish traps (2) will be the primary survey method used, and catch and release angling will also occur on an opportunistic basis. Catch levels will be restricted annually to 20 Atlantic Whitefish in the fish traps and 4 Atlantic Whitefish by angling. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will take possession of, and appropriately store, any Atlantic Whitefish mortalities for research purposes.
  • >> See more Permits and Related Agreements documents

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) Order (2018-09-19)

    The Atlantic Whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) is a Canadian endemic fish species known historically to occur in two watersheds in southwestern Nova Scotia. Once anadromous, the species has continued to decline in abundance and distribution, and presently occurs as a single lake-resident population distributed amongst three small, interconnected, semi-natural lakes in the Petite Rivière watershed. In this last remaining refuge, its status continues to decline due to the presence of two highly piscivorous aquatic invasive species (smallmouth bass and chain pickerel). The Atlantic Whitefish was the first fish species in Canada and Nova Scotia’s first endemic fish to be classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1984. This status was re-examined and reconfirmed by COSEWIC in both 2000 and 2010. In June 2003, upon the coming into force of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the Atlantic Whitefish was listed as endangered in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to SARA.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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