Salish Sucker


Photograph of Salish sucker, by Mike Pearson.


Species at Risk Act

Status: Endangered

Recovery Strategy: see the SARA registry - link - search using the keywords “Salish sucker”

COSEWIC status report: see the SARA registry - link - search using the keywords “Salish sucker”


Date of Assessment: November 2002

Common Name: Salish sucker

Scientific Name: Catastomus sp.

COSEWIC Status: Endangered

Reason for Designation: The Salish sucker has a very restricted Canadian range within which populations are in decline as a result of habitat loss and degradation resulting from urban, agriculture and industrial development.

Canadian Occurrence: British Columbia

COSEWIC Status History: Designated Endangered in April 1996. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report.


Brief Description of Salish Sucker and Its Habitat

The Salish sucker (Catostomus sp.) is a small-bodied, fine-scaled fish documented from 10 watersheds in the Fraser Valley, near Vancouver, British Columbia.  At least four other populations occur in northwestern Washington State. One British Columbia population (Little Campbell River) is believed extirpated. Salish sucker populations have been in decline since at least the 1960s in Canada, and probably for much longer. 

Adults are most abundant in headwater marshes and beaver ponds.  Juveniles are found in shallow pools or glides containing cover, but may also use other habitats. Spawning occurs in riffles over fine gravel and insect larvae predominate in the diet. Most individuals have small home ranges (mean of 170 m of channel, May - Oct), although some individuals venture kilometres during the spawning period. Within watersheds, populations are extremely clumped, with a few sites harboring a large proportion of individuals. Consequently spatial distribution and longevity of habitat patches, in addition to their size, may be important for long-term persistence of Salish sucker.

Some References

COSEWIC 2007. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Nooksack dace Rhinichthys cataractae sp. in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 27 pp.

Lavkulich, L. M., K. J. Hall, and H. Schreier. 1999. Land and water interactions: Present and future in M. C. Healey, editor. Seeking sustainability in the lower Fraser Basin: Issues and Choices. Institute for Resources and Environment, Westwater Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

McPhail, J. D. 1987. Status of the Salish sucker, Catostomus sp., in Canada. Canadian Field Naturalist 101:231-236.

McPhail, J. D. 2007. The freshwater fishes of British Columbia. University of Alberta Press, Edmonton.

McPhail, J. D., and E. B. Taylor. 1999. Morphological and genetic variation in northwestern longnose suckers, Catostomus catostomus: the Salish sucker problem. Copeia 1999:884-893.

National Recovery Team for Salish Sucker and Nooksack Dace. 2005. Critical habitat assessment for Salish sucker and Nooksack dace. Prepared for the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada by Mike Pearson, Vancouver, B.C.

Patton, T. M. 2003. Evaluation of the Salish creek mitigation project. M. Sc. Thesis, Resource Management and Environmental Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Pearson, M. P. 2004a. The ecology, status, and recovery potential of Nooksack dace and Salish sucker in Canada. Ph.D. thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Pearson, M. P. 2004b. Threats to the Salish sucker and Nooksack dace. Prepared for the National Recovery Team for Salish sucker and Nooksack dace, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver.

Pearson, M. P., and M. C. Healey. 2003. Life history characteristics of the endangered Salish sucker (Catostomus sp.) and their implications for management. Copeia 2003:759-768.  pdf available here


Recovery Team Documents

critical habitat recommendations for Nooksack dace and Salish sucker - link

letter of clarification from Recovery Team re critical habitat

guidelines for the collection of Salish sucker – March 2009

password-protected link for members of the Recovery Team