Species Profile

Striped Bass Bay of Fundy population

Scientific Name: Morone saxatilis
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2012
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B2ab(iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large-bodied fish occurs at only a single known spawning location where it continues to be susceptible to exploitation from recreational fishing, by-catch in commercial fisheries, and from poaching. Habitat degradation continues in areas of historical spawning populations which limits recovery potential.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in November 2004. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2012.
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

No schedule - No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

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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Information about this species

Description The striped bass was once commercially important in Eastern Canada and is still highly prized by anglers. It is an anadromous species - meaning that it spawns in fresh water before moving downstream to brackish and salt water to feed and mature. It is dark olive green on the back with paler silvery sides and white on the belly. Seven or 8 dark stripes run horizontally down its sides. Striped bass is a long lived fish, reaching up to 30 years of age. Although it has been recorded at lengths up to 1.8 m, it rarely reaches 1 m in Canadian waters. Distribution The natural range of the striped bass extends along the Atlantic coast of North America, from the St. Lawrence Estuary to the St. Johns River in northeast Florida. Native striped bass populations have also existed in the tributaries of the Gulf of Mexico, from the Suwannee River in northwestern Florida to Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. There is historical evidence of striped bass spawning in five rivers of Eastern Canada: the St. Lawrence Estuary, the Miramichi River in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Saint John, Annapolis and Shubenacadie rivers, which all drain into the Bay of Fundy. Striped bass still spawn in the Miramichi (southern Gulf) and Shubenacadie (Bay of Fundy) rivers. The Bay of Fundy is also frequented by striped bass that breed in rivers in the United States. The species was also introduced on the U.S. Pacific coast in the late 1800s, where it became established. Many lakes and reservoirs in the southern U.S. have been stocked with striped bass to promote the sport fishery. Habitat The species is typically associated with estuaries and coastal waters. An abundant striped bass population is an indicator that a river and its estuary are in good condition: the species requires high quality spawning and nursery habitat and abundant aquatic species for food. Striped bass is an important component of the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems. Striped bass spawn in freshwater and occasionally brackish water. Egg incubation, larval and young-of-the-year development correspond to a gradual movement downstream to saltwater, where they typically feed and grow for several years before reaching maturity. A particular feature of Canadian striped bass populations is that they overwinter in rivers in order to escape the cold ocean waters. The striped bass can live and, in some cases, complete its entire life cycle in freshwater, although there are no known freshwater striped bass populations in Canada. BiologyIncreasing water temperatures in the spring trigger the movement of striped bass to their spawning grounds in fresh or slightly brackish waters. Spawning (which can last up to 3 to 4 weeks for large spawning aggregations) tends to take place at twilight when temperatures rise above 10o C. Eggs are suspended in the water column for 2 to 3 days before hatching. Larvae require an abundant supply of zooplankton (minute organisms that live in the water column) to survive. Striped bass remain at the larval stage for 35 to 50 days before they undergo a metamorphosis to their juvenile form at which point they are approximately 20 mm long.Young-of-the-year move downstream over the summer where they continue to feed and grow in estuaries and coastal bays. Older fish migrate along the coast in search of prey, which includes small fishes such as juvenile herring, smelt and tomcod. In the fall, Canadian populations of striped bass move back upstream where they overwinter in brackish or fresh water, likely to avoid low ocean temperatures. Males reach maturity sooner than females at roughly 3 years of age. Females mature at anywhere from 4 to 6 years of age. Adults are repeat spawners, with females producing between 50,000 and 1.5 million eggs. Threats Historically, three rivers draining into the Bay of Fundy supported striped bass spawning populations, but repeated spawning failures led to the disappearance of the Annapolis and Saint John River populations. These disappearances are thought to be due to changes in the water’s flow, and a degrading water quality. In the Shubenacadie River population, the only remaining spawning population in the Bay of Fundy, the presence of the introduced chain pickerel in overwintering sites may constitute a threat. Another threat to the population is bycatch from various commercial fisheries. In more detail: The Annapolis River has shown no evidence of spawning or recruitment since 1976. Concerns are that agricultural pollution, pesticides or changes in pH have affected egg and larval survival. The construction of the Annapolis Royal causeway, near the mouth of the river may also have altered incubation and rearing habitat, further affecting recruitment. A recreational fishery for striped bass is concentrated at the base of the dam in summer and fall. The Saint John River has supported both a recreational and commercial fishery. A commercial fishery in Belleisle Bay was conducted in winter from 1930 to 1978 when it was determined that there was an absence of recruitment and the population was in decline. The last evidence of spawning was in 1979. Like the Annapolis River, alterations in rearing habitat due to dam construction (the Mactaquac Dam was built in 1967) and pollution may also have inhibited the survival of eggs and larvae. The Shubenacadie River today supports a relatively stable population of striped bass with spawning occurring in the Stewiacke River, a tributary of the Shubenacadie. Abundance estimates from a recreational fishery which takes place from April to June indicate a decline happened between 1950 and 1975. Early estimates from more recent tagging programs and surveys suggest the population has stabilized. Members of the population migrate to Grand Lake in winter where there is potential for them to be illegally taken in the ice fishery for smelt. Protection Striped bass currently receive protection through the federal Fisheries Act.There are no commercial fisheries for striped bass in Maritime waters but they can be taken as bycatch in other commercial fisheries such as gaspereau and eel on inland waters or gillnet and trap/ weir fisheries along the coast. Management measures of the recreational fishery, regulated under the Fisheries Act, provides for daily bag limits, gear and minimum length restrictions and seasonal closures. Recreational angling is permitted year round in the tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy and along the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia. For inland waters, angling is permitted during set summer months, except for those waters draining into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait where angling for striped bass is not permitted.

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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.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) in Canada (2004) (2005-08-12)

    The striped bass, Morone saxatilis, is a species typical of eastern North American estuaries and coastal waters. It is anadromous, i.e., spawning, incubation and early larval development occur in freshwater and the juveniles migrate downstream to brackish water and eventually salt water to feed and grow for several years before reaching maturity.
  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) in Canada (2012) (2020-09-08)

    The Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) is a large-bodied fish (1 m or more) with an olive green back, fading on the sides to silvery and becoming white on the belly. There are seven or eight horizontal dark stripes along each side. It has an elongate, laterally-compressed body, a triangular head, and a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw. It has two separated dorsal fins, the first of which is spiny and its caudal fin is forked. In Canada there are three designatable units (DUs): the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence DU, the Bay of Fundy DU, and the St. Lawrence River DU. The Striped Bass is a top aquatic predator in marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats and has been the focus of important commercial and recreational fisheries and is of significance to Aboriginal fisheries and culture. Note: This addendum to the COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on September 2, 2020.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Striped Bass, Bay of Fundy population (2013-12-18)

    This large-bodied fish occurs at only a single known spawning location where it continues to be susceptible to exploitation from recreational fishing, by-catch in commercial fisheries, and from poaching. Habitat degradation continues in areas of historical spawning populations which limits recovery potential.
  • Response Statements - Striped Bass (2005-11-15)

    Repeated spawning failures led to the disappearance of the Annapolis and Saint John River populations. These disappearances are thought to be due to changes in flow regime and poor water quality. In the Shubenacadie River population, the presence of the introduced chain pickerel in overwintering sites may constitute a threat. Another threat to the population is bycatch from various commercial fisheries. The Bay of Fundy is also used by striped bass breeding in rivers in the United States. These fish were not assessed.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)

    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 in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SAR-2008P-14), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2008-06-05)

    The Nova Scotia Museum will be conducting freshwater field surveys using a standard variety of collecting equipment. Sampling locations and techniques are designed to avoid capture of SARA-listed species. Dip nets, small seine nets and minnow traps will be used to sample fish. Any SARA-listed species will be released immediately at point of capture. The research will contribute to a revised edition of the NS Museum publication "Fishes of Nova Scotia Lakes and Streams".

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005-11-16)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Species at Risk Act - Legal Listing Consultation Workbook, Striped Bass, Bay of Fundy Population and Miramichi Population (2005-11-15)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the Striped Bass 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 this 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 this species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).
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