|Photo: Konrad Schmidt|
Features: The Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) is an ancient species and, like its close relatives the sturgeons, it has been fished for its eggs which are processed into caviar. It is a thick, robust fish with a long, spatula-like snout and a large, toothless mouth. The skin is smooth and scaleless. The Paddlefish can live for at least 30 years and grow to 2 metres long and weigh over 70 kilograms. Individuals are slow to develop and males can take up to seven years to reach sexual maturity. Most of the year Paddlefish live in slow-moving sections of large rivers and lakes, but in the breeding season they migrate to large, fast flowing rivers with gravel bottoms where eggs are protected and well oxygenated during development. Females can lay 150,000 eggs or more, but they do not spawn every year.
Status: Extirpated Provincially and Nationally
Range: The present range of the Paddlefish is the Mississippi River system from Montana to Louisiana, and some smaller rivers draining into the Gulf of Mexico. In Canada, Paddlefish were last reported about 80 years ago when they are thought to have occurred in Lake Huron and Lake Erie, but there are only two verified reports of the species in Ontario.
Threats: The Paddlefish has declined across its entire range, due largely to loss of breeding habitat and over-fishing. A small commercial fishery still exists in some states. Some characteristics of its life history, such as the long time to maturity, make it susceptible to decline and slow to recover. Other threats include dam construction which has blocked access to spawning sites, channelization, water drawoff, and pollution.
Protection: There is no specific legal protection for this species in Canada.
Text Sources: Parker 1987
Last Modified Date: June 2008
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