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Conservation of the Copper Redhorse:
When everyone lends a hand
The Recovery Strategy for the Copper Redhorse under the Species at Risk Act is now online. It was developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Gouvernement du Québec and the recovery team, which consisted of several provincial and federal departments and organizations working in environmental protection.
The Copper Redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi) is the only fish with a distribution range exclusive to Quebec. This very restricted area is limited to the St. Lawrence River and some of its tributaries. The Richelieu River is currently the only watercourse where the Copper Redhorse reproduces. The abundance of the adult population is estimated to be a few hundred individuals at most. In December 2007, the Copper Redhorse was officially listed on the Species at Risk Act list as an endangered species.
Several threats are hindering the Copper Redhorse’s recovery: habitat degradation (sedimentation, shoreline development, organic pollution), construction of dams, contaminants, invasive aquatic species, recreational activities, fishing and low water levels.
Moreover, some of the Copper Redhorse’s biological characteristics increase its vulnerability. First, its specialized diet restricts its distribution to areas where its prey is and, second, its late spawning period means that the young Copper Redhorse are still very small during their first winter. Lastly, the Copper Redhorse does not reproduce until at least 10 years of age.
The goal of the recovery strategy is a population of 4 000 mature individuals. The strategy’s priorities are protecting known habitats, improving water quality, and stocking to support the population.
A species characteristic of the Richelieu River ecosystem, the Copper Redhorse has been the focus of concerted conservation efforts for over 20 years. Here are two noteworthy initiatives:
- The implementation of two wildlife refuges in significant Copper Redhorse habitats (collaboration between the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Gouvernement du Québec and the Comité de concertation et de valorisation du bassin de la rivière Richelieu);
- The restoration of agricultural effluents from the Richelieu River (collaboration between Agriculture Canada, the Comité de concertation et de valorisation du bassin de la rivière Richelieu, and the Union des producteurs agricoles, with support from the Habitat Stewardship Program and the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund for Species at Risk).
An important partnership network between various departments, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and Quebec, Canadian and American universities, has been established to ensure actions are carried out.
The Recovery Strategy for the Copper Redhorse is now available online to anyone concerned about protecting this species.
A recovery strategy is a planning document that describes, in general, the actions to be taken to halt or reverse the decline of a threatened, endangered or extirpated species. It describes the threats putting the species at risk, defines the recovery goals, specifies the key measures to protect it and designates, if possible, its key habitats.
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