Cover photo credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources



“Endangered” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.

Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List

The Shortnose Cisco was already assessed as endangered when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008. A reassessment in November 2017 confirmed this status.

Read the assessment report PDF.

What it looks like

The Shortnose Cisco is a member of the whitefish family.

It has a short head and snout, small eyes, and a tiny mouth. All of the fins are small compared to its somewhat stocky body, which usually grows to a length of 25 centimetres.

It has a yellow-green back, silver sides, and a white belly. The Shortnose Cisco can be distinguished from other cisco fish species by dark markings on the snout.

Where it lives

The Shortnose Cisco is found only in the Great Lakes of North America. It was last seen in Lake Ontario in 1964 and in Lake Huron in 1985.

Where it’s been found in Ontario

In Ontario, the Shortnose Cisco lives in the deep, cold water of the Great Lakes, usually at depths between 22 to 110 metres.

It has been found at depths reaching 144 metres! This species eats mostly freshwater shrimp.

map of shortnose cisco range

View a Larger version of this map (PDF)

What threatens it

Ontario’s Shortnose Cisco population was greatly reduced by overfishing and possibly by competition or predation by exotic (non-native) species.

Action we are taking

Endangered species and their general habitat are automatically protected.

Recovery Strategy

A recovery strategy advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.

Read the executive summary and the full document (December 7, 2018).

Government response statement

A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.

Read the government response statement (September 5, 2019).

Habitat protection

General Habitat Protection - June 30, 2013

What you can do

Report a sighting

  • Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.


Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Be a good steward

Report illegal activity

Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).

Quick facts

  • The Shortnose Cisco, also called chub, was once commercially fished in the Great Lakes; in the late 1800s it was the main fish caught by Toronto fishing boats; by the 1930s this species was seldom caught and by the 1980s it had nearly disappeared
  • When the Shortnose Cisco was more common, it was probably an important food source for predators such as Lake Trout and Burbot
  • Shortnose Cisco is very difficult to distinguish from the other six species of ciscoes found in the Great Lakes, and experts often rely on the number and shape of the gill rakers (small bones along the gills) to help identify the species
  • Female Shortnose Ciscos have a longer lifespan than males, and can live up to 11 years
  • The Shortnose Cisco has not been reliably reported since 1985 and may be extinct