Unarmoured threespine stickleback: consultation

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Consultations on listing under the Species at Risk Act


Information summary and survey for the consultations on adding Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk as Special Concern – Please provide your input by December 22, 2015.


Let your opinion be heard

Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) provides legal protection for wildlife species at risk to conserve biological diversity.  It also acknowledges that all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species.

Before deciding whether the Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) will be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, we would like to hear your opinion, comments, and suggestions regarding the possible ecological, cultural, and economic impacts of listing or not listing this species under 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.

Facts about Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback

Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback

Figure 1. Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback.

The Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback, also known as the Charlotte Unarmoured Stickleback, is a small (~65 mm length) freshwater fish, likely descended from the marine Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Freshwater Threespine Sticklebacks typically have three dorsal spines, an anal spine, two pelvic spines and bony plates on the sides of their bodies. A key feature of Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback’s appearance is the loss of one or more of the typical dorsal spines, and the reduction or absence of bony plates on the sides of their bodies.

The Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback occurs only within Boulton, Rouge, and Serendipity lakes on Graham Island, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. The number of mature individuals is thought to be in the high thousands for Rouge Lake, the low tens of thousands for Serendipity Lake, and the low hundreds of thousands for Boulton Lake.

Unarmoured Threespine Sticklebacks reach maturity at approximately three years of age. Threespine Sticklebacks typically live to between two to three years of age.

distribution map

Figure 2. Canadian distribution of Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback (map was adapted from COSEWIC 2012).

Who assigned the Special Concern status to Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback ?

COSEWIC is an independent committee of experts that assesses which wildlife species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada and assigns a status to these species.  It conducts its assessments based on the best available information including scientific data, local ecological knowledge, and Aboriginal traditional knowledge.  COSEWIC assessed Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback in Atlantic Canada in November 2013 and designated it as Special Concern.  

Why is Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback at risk?

COSEWIC concluded that threats to Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback is the introduction of invasive species. Other threats include changes in predator regimes, human disturbance (e.g. rural and industrial activities), erosion, severe winter conditions and potentially, habitat changes caused by introduced beavers.

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

If Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback is listed, given the Special Concern status, the prohibitions of SARA (for example, prohibitions against killing, harming, and capturing) would not apply. However, listing would result in the development of a SARA management plan that will include conservation measures for this species in Canadian waters.

We would like to receive your comments on the potential impacts of adding or not adding Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA, designated as Special Concern.

Your comments are important.

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

A copy of the 2012 COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback and other information can be found on the SARA Registry.


COSEWIC. 2013. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Giant Threespine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and the Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xiv + 62 pp.

Thank you for completing this survey.

Species at Risk Program, Pacific Region
200-401 Burrard Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, V6C 3S4

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