Species Profile

Shortjaw Cisco

Scientific Name: Coregonus zenithicus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2003
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Qualifies for Special Concern but designated Threatened due to overall population declines in North America, especially in the Great Lakes and larger lakes such as Lake Nipigon and Great Slave Lake, that have left the remaining populations fragmented.
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This species has been extirpated from lakes Huron and Erie and is in decline in Lake Superior and Great Slave Lake. It is still present in Lake Nipigon and numerous smaller lakes where its status is not well known. Threats include fishing, introduction of exotics and climate change.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 1987. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2003.
SARA Status: Schedule 2, Threatened - (SARA Schedule 1 provisions do not apply)
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

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 | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Shortjaw Cisco

Shortjaw Cisco Photo 1

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Description

The Shortjaw Cisco is a deepwater member of the whitefish family. It has an elliptical body covered in large, smooth scales. It is silver, with an olive or tan back and white underbelly. The mouth is small and toothless, and as its name suggests, the lower jaw is shorter than or even with the upper jaw. Shortjaw Cisco is distinguished from other ciscoes by the number of gillrakers (bones growing under the gill plates). This fish typically has fewer gillrakers, often shorter in length, than other ciscoes. It generally weighs about 300 g, and varies from 150 to greater than 300 mm standard length; it is found in lakes at depths of 20 to 180 m.

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Distribution and Population

The Shortjaw Cisco is associated with the Great Lakes, but is widely distributed throughout central Canada. The species once inhabited lakes Huron, Michigan, Superior, and Nipigon, but is no longer found in lakes Huron and Michigan. It has been reported in at least 22 other lakes outside of the Great Lakes, from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. The Shortjaw Cisco is believed to be in decline in the Great Lakes region. It is no longer found in Lake Michigan, and populations are estimated to have declined significantly in lakes Huron and Superior. Population trends in other lakes throughout its range are generally unknown.

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Habitat

The Shortjaw Cisco is found in the deeper waters of large lakes. It has been found at depths of between 55 to 114 m in lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. In Lake Superior, Shortjaw Cisco has been found to move seasonally. It was found at depths of 110 to 114 m in spring, 55 to 71 m in summer, and at 73 to 90 m in winter. Little is known about habitat preferences in smaller lakes.

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Biology

Shortjaw Ciscoes spawn in either fall or spring in the Great Lakes. Fall spawning takes place in lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie, and occurs in either spring or fall in Lake Superior. Eggs are deposited over the lake bottom and develop over three to four months, depending on water temperature. It is estimated that a Shortjaw Cisco of 271 mm total length would produce 3 230 eggs, and a fish of 305 mm total length would produce 18 768 eggs. The Shortjaw Cisco, similar to other fish species, grows quickly during its first year of life. Females generally increase in weight faster than males, but usually have similar growth rates in length to males. This fish reaches sexual maturity at five years of age. Shortjaw Cisco is an opportunistic feeder and tends to eat only one prey item at a time. It feeds on tiny lake organisms in the water column and at the lake bottom, and is itself an important food source for predators such as Lake Trout and Burbot. Shortjaw Cisco may be vulnerable to the Sea Lamprey, as its favoured prey items become scarcer.

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Threats

Over-exploitation in food fisheries in the early 1900s likely led to the decline of this species in lakes Huron and Michigan. In the last 30 years, competition and predation from Rainbow Smelt and Alewives, two introduced exotic fish species, has had a negative impact on Shortjaw Cisco populations. Other threats include habitat loss and degradation as a result of urban, agricultural, and industrial activities.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Fisheries Act provides general protection and 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 Shortjaw Cisco (Coregonus zenithicus)
Status Recovery team/planner in place

Name Draft Alberta Shortjaw Cisco Recovery Plan 2006-2011
Status Approvals process initiated

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Recovery Team

Shortjaw Cisco Recovery Team

  • Ken Cullis - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 807-475-1375  Send Email

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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.

12 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the shortjaw cisco Coregonus zenithicus in Canada (2003-05-01)

    The shortjaw cisco (Coregonus zenithicus) is a widespread species in the salmonid subfamily, Coregoninae. Originally described from Lake Superior at Duluth, Minnesota by Jordan and Evermann in 1909, it was subsequently discovered in most of the Laurentian Great Lakes and many smaller lakes in central North America. Large specimens generally approach 300 g in mass, and exceptionally large fish can reach 1.0 kg. The biology is best known in the Great Lakes (including Lake Nipigon) where the species was once a major component of vigorous food fisheries, occupying intermediate depths of 20-180 m.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Shortjaw Cisco (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    Bruce Peninsula National Park (BPNP) and Fathom Five National Marine Park (FFNMP) lie at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. The peninsula is 90 km in length and its most prominent feature is the Niagara Escarpment which runs along the entire eastern edge. Within BPNP, the escarpment forms the Georgian Bay shoreline and is recognized as part of the core area of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  BPNP was established by the federal government in 1987 to protect a representative example of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands natural region. Because of the fragmented nature of the park properties, many of the stresses on the park’s ecosystem originate from outside its boundaries. For this reason, First Nations, local residents, non-governmental organizations, and other groups and land users play an important role in managing, restoring, and protecting the northern Bruce ecosystem. 
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Pukaskwa National Park of Canada (2017-04-28)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Pukaskwa National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the park. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at Pukaskwa National Park (PNP).

Orders

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-CA SECT 73 SARA C&A 11-025), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2011-08-11)

    The purposes of the permit is to conduct comprehensive fish and mussel surveys throughout the province of Ontario. These surveys are designed to meet specific research requirements of various agencies. These surveys will yield significant information to contribute to species at risk recovery in Ontario. This research will include assessing current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish SAR in Ontario. Project 1: Critical Habitat of Pugnose Shiner in Canada: Population Structure, Detectability, Habitat Preferences, and the Effects of Turbidity and Oxygen Depletion Project 2: Status Update of Silver Shiner in Ontario Project 3: Distribution of Pugnose Shiner and Bridle Shiner in Eastern Ontario Project 4: Status of Spotted Gar Populations in Hamilton Harbour, Ontario Project 5: Benthic Fish Community Survey of the Detroit River, Ontario Project 6: Channel Darter survey of the Detroit River, Ontario Project 7: Channel Darter survey of the Ottawa River and Tributaries, Ontario Project 8: Trawling Survey of the Lower Grand River
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SECT 08 SCI 029), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2008-05-16)

    The objective of the research is to conduct comprehensive fish surveys throughout the province of Ontario. This research will include assessing current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish SAR in Ontario. Also included will be a radio-telemetry study of spotted gar to examine critical habitat and interactions with longnose gar.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species at Risk Act - Central & Arctic Region (2004-04-19)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the Northern Madtom, Pugnose Shiner, Kidneyshell, Round Hickorynut, Lake Winnipeg Physa Snail, Channel Darter, Shortjaw Cisco, and Atlantic Cod (Arctic population) to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding these species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding these species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).
  • Consultation Workbook on the Addition of Four Aquatic Species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk- Lake Winnipeg Physa snail, Channel darter, Shortjaw cisco, Atlantic Cod (Arctic population) (2004-09-27)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the Lake Winnipeg Physa Snail, Channel Darter, Shortjaw Cisco, and Atlantic Cod (Arctic population) to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding these species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding these species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).
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