Potential Critical Habitat for Salish Sucker & Nooksack Dace

Potential critical habitat (PCH) is defined for Salish sucker and Nooksack dace. PCH is identified and mapped using reach-scale, in-stream habitat characteristics. PCH includes 166 km of channel and 328 km of bank in140 reaches and 11 watersheds. The width of riparian reserve necessary to maintain important habitat characteristics is included in PCH and was assessed using an adaptation of British Columbia’s Riparian Area Regulation (RAR) assessment methodology. It extends laterally from the top of bank along both banks of the full length of each potential critical habitat reach to a distance equal to the widest zone of sensitivity (ZOS) calculated for each of 5 riparian features, functions and conditions. These are: large woody debris supply for fish habitat and maintenance of channel morphology, localized bank stability, channel movement, shade, and insect and debris fall. Widths of riparian reserve in PCH reaches range from 5 to 30 m, with an average of 21.4 m (s. dev = 6.77) and total area encompasses 717 ha of land.

Existing riparian vegetation in PCH is sparse, with 60% of bank length supporting discontinuous bands of vegetation less than 5 m wide. This highlights the need for recovery activities focused on riparian enhancement and restoration. Permanent structures such as roads, farm crossings, buildings, and yards restrict the width of 106 km (32%) of riparian reserve within PCH to less than its calculated value. Actively farmed land and golf course fairways impinge on an additional 112 km (34%) of PCH length. Protecting this land is a priority for conserving these species and would provide benefits to a number of other SARA listed species, in addition to salmonids, surface water quality, and (in many cases) agricultural drainage.

The Ecology, Status & Recovery Prospects of Nooksack Dace and Salish Sucker in Canada

I studied the ecology and assessed the current status and prospects for recovery of two endangered fishes, the Salish sucker and the Nooksack dace. Salish sucker populations were located in 9 of 45 Fraser Valley watersheds. Distribution is discontinuous and abundance is spatially clumped at the regional and watershed scales. Populations are concentrated in headwaters, especially beaver ponds. The amount of deep pool habitat in a reach is the most powerful predictor of presence, but fish are usually absent if more than 50% of the land within 200 m of a reach is urban. Radio telemetry work showed that Salish suckers are crepuscular, have home ranges averaging 170 m of linear channel, made their longest movements during the spawning period (March to early June) and rarely crossed beaver dams. Relative to closely related Catostomids, they are small, early maturing, and have a prolonged spawning period. Nooksack dace are limited to three watersheds in Canada. Populations are spatially clumped. The amount of riffle habitat in a reach is the most powerful predictor of their presence, while long sections of deep pool are associated with absence. Mark-recapture work suggests that dace typically range over less than 50 m of channel, but that a small number venture further. Spawning is prolonged (April –July). Life history characteristics of both species are likely to impart good resilience to short-term disturbances of limited spatial scale, but not to the chronic, large-scale disruptions that affect their habitat in Canada. I identified eight potential threats and for each assessed species vulnerability, severity in each population’s watershed, and the ability of current legislation and policy to address it. In light of these three factors, Salish suckers appear most threatened by acute hypoxia and Nooksack dace are most threatened by lack of water. Both species have been strongly impacted by habitat destruction from drainage and infilling projects and may be vulnerable to introduced predators and habitat fragmentation. Toxicity from urban runoff, sediment deposition and riffle loss to beaver ponds (dace only) threaten individual populations, but are probably not major threats across the range.

Habitat Inventory and Enhancement Needs for Salish Sucker and Nooksack Dace

The purpose of this study is to inventory the extent and condition of habitat in the Canadian streams in which Salish sucker and Nooksack dace occur, and to identify and prioritize restoration needs based on available life history information for both species.

Appendix 2 contains desscriptions and data for each reach of Cave, Bertrand, Pepin, and Fishtrap Creeks surveyed during the summer of 1997. In addition specific habitat enhancement needs for each reach are identified and prioritized. The document is intended to provide fine-scale baseline information from which to assess habitat changes over time and to provide a basis for prioritizing specific projects.

Nooksack dace and Drought

Understanding the impacts of hydrological drought, and the role that refugia play in mitigating these impacts, is crucial to the conservation of freshwater fishes. This is especially true for species adapted to riffles, which are typically the first habitats to dewater at low discharge. We examined the relationship among decreasing stream discharge, abundance, and habitat use for Nooksack dace (Rhinichthys cataractae ssp.), an endangered riffle-dwelling species. A complementary experimental manip- ulation examined the effects of flow on growth rate across a discharge gradient in riffle and pool habitats. We found that low-velocity habitats and decreased discharge in experimental channels result in reduced dace growth and that decreasing stream flow was coincident with declines in Nooksack dace abundance. This study demonstrates the sensitivity of Nooksack dace to hydrological drought, and insofar as Nooksack dace are ecologically typical of small riffle-dwelling invertivore fishes, our results suggest that use of pools does not mitigate sublethal effects of declining flows on growth, although pools may provide refuge from the most negative effects of drought (i.e., stranding of fish).

Nooksack Dace Collection Guidelines 2015

Section 32 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibits2 (among others) the killing, harming, harassing, capturing, taking, collecting, or possessing of the Nooksack Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae ssp.), a species listed on Schedule 1 of SARA as Endangered. If your activity may impact the Nooksack Dace in one of the ways mentioned above, a permit under SARA may be required to comply with the Act. The onus is on you to ensure your activities comply with SARA.

This document provides advice for the capture, handling, scientific study, and salvage of the Nooksack Dace. The guidelines herein are intended to minimize harm to the Nooksack Dace, and are considered the best practices for capture, handling, scientific study, and salvage of the Nooksack Dace. By following these guidelines, acute mortality of Nooksack Dace as a result of trapping should be <1%.