Aquatic Species at Risk - Channel Darter
SARA Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
Region: Ontario and Quebec
Did You Know?
Under both Ontario’s and Quebec’s fishing regulations, the Channel Darter cannot be used as bait.
Factsheet: Channel Darter
Baitfish Primer for Ontario
The Channel Darter is a small fish member of the Perch family, Percidae. It has the following characteristics and distinguishing features:
- Between 34 and 61 mm in total length, with some specimens as large as 72 mm;
- Light sand or olive in colour with brown markings on its back;
- A dark spot or bar may be present below the eye and extending onto the snout;
- Has 8 to 10 brown oblong blotches along the lateral line linked by a thin brown line;
- Fins are clear or lightly speckled;
- The first spiny dorsal fin usually has 11 rays; and,
- Spawning males become dusky with a blackish head.
Photo credit: G. Coker
In Canada, the Channel Darter’s occurrence is uncommon, but fragmented populations exist in several areas of Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, the Channel Darter is found in the lower Great Lakes basin along the shores of Lake Erie, Detroit River, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Ottawa River and some of its tributaries, and in drainages of the Bay of Quinte. In Quebec, the species is found in the St. Lawrence River and also in tributaries of four hydrographic regions: Outaouais and Montreal; the southwest St. Lawrence; southeast St. Lawrence; and the northwest St. Lawrence.
Channel Darter can be found in three general types of habitats, depending on which aquatic system they occupy: 1) in lakes, they are found in gravel and coarse sand beach areas; 2) in large river systems, they are typically found in gravel and cobble shoals and riffles; and, 3) in small- to medium-sized rivers, they are typically found in the riffles and pools. Communal spawning occurs in the spring and early summer in upstream areas with moderate to fast current and over fine gravel or small rocks.
In Canada, this species is threatened by habitat loss and degradation (e.g. shoreline modifications, altered flow regimes, barriers to movement, turbidity and sediment loading, contaminants and toxic substances), the introduction of exotic species, diseases and possible baitfish harvesting.
The Channel Darter population of Canada has been designated as threatened and is protected under the Species at Risk Act. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has prepared a recovery strategy for this population, in cooperation with many individuals, organizations and government agencies, including the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, Parks Canada, the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery team, and the Quebec Cyprinidae and Small Percidae Team.
The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk and the Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk help fund recovery and awareness projects. For example, in Quebec, shorelines have been planted with vegetation to stabilize them and to restore the aquatic habitat.
You can contribute to the recovery of the Channel Darter.
- Waterfront residents: Avoid disturbing the Channel Darter’s habitat by preserving or restoring natural shorelines;
- Fishers: Don’t use Channel Darter as baitfish. If you accidentally capture a Channel Darter, return it to the water immediately to increase its’ chance of survival.
For more information, visit the SARA registry Website.
Scientific Name: Percina copelandi
SARA Status: Threatened (April 2006).
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (May 2002)
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