Species At Risk

Upper Great Lakes Kiyi

(Coregonus kiyi kiyi)

Special Concern

Upper Great Lakes Kiyi
Upper Great Lakes Kiyi occurrences map


The Kiyi is a member of the whitefish subfamily and one of seven cisco species found in Ontario. It grows to a maximum length of 25 centimetres, making it one of the smaller deepwater ciscoes from the Great Lakes basin. The Kiyi shares similar physical characteristics with other ciscos, including silvery sides with pink or purple iridescence, dark backs and white undersides. Its lower jaw has a distinct projection, extending beyond the upper jar.

The Kiyi is divided into two subspecies – the Upper Great Lakes Kiyi and the Lake Ontario Kiyi.

Action we are taking:


The Kiyi was historically found in all the Great Lakes except Lake Erie. The Upper Great Lakes Kiyi now only occurs in Lake Superior, as it was declared extirpated from Lake Huron in 1973 and Lake Michigan in 1974. The Lake Ontario subspecies is considered extinct, with the last sighting recorded in 1964.


The Kiyi lives in the clear, cold-water of the Great Lakes at depths ranging from 35 to 200 metres and feeds on deep-water crustaceans. It is rarely found in waters less than 100 metres deep.

This species generally spawns in the late fall, at depths greater than 100 metres. The age of maturity is two to three years. Females have been found to live for up to ten years, and up to seven years for males.


Commercial overfishing of Kiyi may have contributed to the decline of this species in lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario. Introduced fish species such as the Sea Lamprey, Alewife and Rainbow Smelt may have competed or preyed upon remnant Kiyi populations in lakes Huron and Ontario. Eutrophication of their habitat may also be a threat. Eutrophication is the process by which a body of water becomes rich in dissolved nutrients from fertilizers or sewage. This encourages the growth and decomposition of plant life, which results in oxygen-depletion and decreased water quality.


The Upper Great Lakes Kiyi is listed as a species of Special Concern under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Although species of Special Concern do not receive legal protection under this act, this species does receive general protection provided by habitat sections of the federal Fisheries Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Upper Great Lakes Kiyi

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Upper Great Lakes Kiyi. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Upper Great Lakes Kiyi in a watercourse on or adjacent to your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit: ontario.ca/invasivespecies; www.invadingspecies.com; www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca; and, www.invasivespecies.gc.ca.

Did you know?

The Kiyi can be distinguished from the two other deepwater cisco species, Bloater and Shortjaw Cisco, known to exist in the Great Lakes by its unique combination of long paired fins, and eyes so large they make up almost 25 per cent of the head length.

Did you know?

The Kiyi is prey for Burbot and Lake Trout.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.