Atlantic Whitefish Facts

  • The Atlantic whitefish was declared endangered by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status on Endangered Wildlife in Canada) in 1984 and is protected under the Maritime Fisheries Regulations, the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act. Not only is it an endangered species, but it inhabits only one global location; the Petite Rivière watershed in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia. Within this watershed, it is found in only three lakes; Hebb, Milipsigate, and Minamkeak. Historically, this species was also found in the Tusket River watershed, Yarmouth County, but has since been extirpated from that part of the province.
  • Many factors including over-fishing, acidification, inadequate fish passage, and the introduction of non-native species are believed to have contributed to the loss of this species on the Tusket River in Yarmouth County. These factors are also a threat to the current populations and, as a result, steps are being taken to help with the conservation and recovery of this species.
     
  • The Atlantic whitefish Conservation and Recovery Team (AWC&RT), established in 1999, consisted of Fisheries & Oceans Canada along with the Nova Scotia Departments of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Natural Resources. They joined together with other levels of government, community groups, and individuals to form an effective recovery team for the Atlantic whitefish. The AWC&RT, recognizing the community environmental experience available through the organization, invited BCAF to become an active member of the committee in 2003. The AWC&RT plays an important role in promoting the stewardship and research of the Atlantic whitefish. BCAF is primarily involved in conducting research, as well as public engagement and education about the Atlantic whitefish.
     
  • It is believed that one of the largest threats to the remaining Atlantic whitefish populations is the presence of smallmouth bass, which were introduced to Nova Scotia in 1942. The growth and spread of smallmouth bass in the Petite Riviere system could have a detrimental effect on the Atlantic whitefish. These detrimental effects include competition for habitat and food, as well as possible direct predation. The AWC&RT have deemed the emergent threat of smallmouth bass in the Petite system to be serious enough to warrant potential future action – action to control the growth and spread of the existing smallmouth bass populations.
     

What you can do to help:

  • Learn to identify the Atlantic whitefish from Lake whitefish (See “Difference between Atlantic whitefish and Lake whitefish” Fact Sheet in 2010-11 Communications Products).
  • Carefully release accidentally caught Atlantic whitefish. (Removal of the Atlantic whitefish has been prohibited from all Nova Scotian waters since 1970 by the Nova Scotia Fishery Regulations under the federal Fisheries Act.)
  • Help stop the introduction of invasive species. It is illegal to move fish from one body of water to another. Bait should be discarded into the body of water from which it was taken.
  • Choose a 4-stroke boat engine. They are quieter, less disturbing to wildlife, and produce less air and water pollution.
  • Talk about the Atlantic whitefish with others in your community.