Freshwater Fisheries in Canada: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Resources and Their Management

Chapter 12: Conservation of Canadian Freshwater Fishes: Current Status, Challenges, and Research Needs

Eric B. Taylor, Nicholas E. Mandrak, John R. Post, and John D. Reynolds


Canada contains over 20% of the Earth’s volume of freshwater, from small ponds and tiny rivulets to massive lakes such as Great Bear Lake (2,236 km3, mean depth of 72 m), and huge rivers such as the Mackenzie River (1,738 km in length with a watershed area of 1.8 million km2). These water bodies exist across a vast landscape and among climatic zones that range from polar to temperate, oceanic to prairie to montane, resulting in a diverse waterscape as habitat for freshwater fishes. This waterscape, coupled with the glacial history of Canada, has resulted in a unique, relatively recently derived freshwater fish fauna characterized by a low level of endemism in terms of taxonomically recognized species, but a rich biodiversity nonetheless (see Mandrak et al. 2023, this volume). The conservation of fish biodiversity is important because it represents a unique aspect of Canada’s bioheritage. Furthermore, freshwater fishes provide numerous subsistence and economic benefits, and a variety of ecosystem services of tremendous benefit to Canadians, and Canada is obligated to meet a number of provincial, national, and international conservation commitments.