Athabasca rainbow trout: species at risk consultation

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Consultations on listing under the Species at Risk Act


Information summary and survey for the consultations on adding the Athabasca Rainbow Trout to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk as Endangered – Please provide your input by February 9, 2016.


Let your opinion be heard

As part of the consultation process, the Government of Canada would like to hear your comments on the potential impacts of listing the Athabasca Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk…

The process of listing a species under Canada’s SARA consists of several steps: it begins with a status assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and ends with a Government of Canada decision on whether or not to add a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Public consultations are conducted to gather the opinions of Canadians and are an important step in this process.

About Athabasca Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Figure 1. Adult Athabasca Rainbow Trout (Photo credit: Ward Hughson, Parks Canada)

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are a part of the Salmonidae family of fish, making them close relatives of both salmon and arctic char. In Canada, these strikingly-coloured fish are found in two forms: sea-run populations in the Pacific Ocean (“steelhead”) and the smaller, landlocked (freshwater) variety. Rainbow Trout are named for their silver-coloured bodies, marked with spots and a shimmering pink or red line along their sides.

Athabasca Rainbow Trout are a distinct population of Rainbow Trout, and are much smaller than any other form of this fish. Considered a “remnant population” from the last ice age, it is thought the Athabasca Rainbow Trout has managed to survive in its unique coldwater habitat by maintaining some juvenile features, such as its ‘dwarfed’ size and “parr” marks, into adulthood.


distribution map

Figure 2. Distribution of the Athabasca Rainbow Trout from COSEWIC 2014).

Athabasca Rainbow Trout are found in the streams and main rivers of the Athabasca River system of Western Alberta. In their natural habitat, they prefer cold, clear water with fast currents and are generally found in waters at 900–1,500 metres above sea level. Adult Athabasca Rainbow Trout live in riffle, runs, glides and pool structures of headwaters, and tend to occupy deeper and faster moving water than juveniles.

Proposed SARA Status: Endangered

The level of protection and recovery actions undertaken for a species listed under SARAdepends on its assessed level of risk for extinction. Athabasca Rainbow Trout has been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Endangered. This is the highest level of risk category and indicates that this species is likely to become extirpated or extinct.

Threats to the Species

Surveys of Athabasca Rainbow Trout populations show they are declining in at least 50 per cent of their range. Reproduction, and the resulting genetic mixing, with hatchery fish is one of the most serious threats to native Athabasca Rainbow Trout, as is competition for resources with non-native, stocked fish species. Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation from industrial and agricultural pollution, climate change, and road development and resource extraction (coal, forestry, oil and gas) also threaten the Athabasca Rainbow Trout.

If a species is listed under the Species at Risk Act…

If the Athabasca Rainbow Trout is listed under SARA, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will, in collaboration and consultation with stakeholders and partners, use the best available information to develop an Action Plan.

We would like to receive your comments on the potential impacts of adding or not adding the Athabasca Rainbow Trout to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA designated as Endangered.

Your comments are important.

Please fill out the survey: we want to hear from you.

A copy of the 2014 COSEWICAssessment and Status Report on the Athabasca Rainbow Trout and other information can be found on the SARA Registry.


COSEWIC. 2014. COSEWICAssessment and Status Report on the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Canada – 2014 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa.

Thank you for completing this survey.

Species at Risk Management Division
501 University Crescent
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N6

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