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Quebec Bulletin
April - May 2014/Volume 17/Number 2

Species at Risk Act – Consultation Underway for the Hickorynut

Hickorynuts

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is studying the possibility of protecting the hickorynut under the Species at Risk Act and is inviting interested individuals and organizations to share their views until June 9, 2014.

The hickorynut is one of Canada's 54 freshwater mussel species and one of only two mussels in the genus Obovaria found in Canada. It lives between 7 and 14 years in wide, deep rivers, moving no more than a few metres. Its green or yellowish shell turns brown with age and measures no more than 7.5 cm. At the larva stage (glochidia), the hickorynut attaches itself to a host fish to feed.

In Canada, known populations of hickorynut are found only in certain rivers, from Lake Huron in southern Ontario to Québec. These rivers include the Mississagi River, Ottawa River, Saint-François River and St. Lawrence River.

The introduction of zebra and quagga mussels in the 1980s and 1990s wiped out the hickorynut in the Detroit and upper St. Lawrence rivers by attaching to hickorynut shells by the hundreds. They continue to threaten the remaining populations to this day.

The lake sturgeon might be the host that enables the hickorynut larvae to reach the free-living stage and ensure that the population is maintained. The abundance of this fish, and indirectly the threats to which it is exposed, can affect the hickorynut. To a lesser extent, pollution also threatens the hickorynut and its host by compromising the quality of their environment.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada deemed that the species is at risk of extinction and granted it endangered status. If the hickorynut is added as an endangered species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, its recovery will have to be planned and restrictions will enter into force immediately. It will then be illegal to harm, kill, take, possess, capture, collect, buy, sell or trade the hickorynut.

The results of consultations and the analysis of the socio-economic impacts will guide Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s decision on whether to add the hickorynut to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Information on the species and the consultation underway is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Alain Kemp
Ecosystems Management

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