Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards, as per the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity.
Species at Risk Act - Legal Listing Consultation Workbook, Fin whale (Atlantic Population)
The Species at Risk Act
A large variety of wildlife species inhabit Canadian lands and waters. Unfortunately some of them are in danger of disappearing. The Canadian government has therefore seriously committed to protecting them, particularly by adopting the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in June 2003, as part of its Endangered Wildlife Species Protection Strategy.
This Act provides a legal framework for adopting measures, throughout Canada, that will ensure the survival of wild animal and plant species and protect our natural heritage. This Act also establishes the criteria being used to determine which species must rapidly become the focus of recovery measures, and the methods to implement recovery in order to protect them. Finally, this Act establishes guidelines for cooperation between governments, organizations and individuals, and provides sanctions for offenders.
Environment Canada is responsible for the overall implementation of SARA. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has the responsibility for aquatic species at risk, except for individuals located on territories managed by Parks Canada (national parks, national historical sites, national marine conservation areas, and other protected heritage sites).
Since no single organization or entity can, on its own, take on the responsibility of ensuring the survival of a species, the effectiveness of the new Act will depend on everyone's goodwill to ensure the survival of all species at risk. With this in mind, SARA requires, at several steps throughout the process, that the federal government consult provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal People, landowners, resource users, and the general public.
The consultation objective of the current workbook is about adding the fin whale (Atlantic population) to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk presented in Appendix 1 of SARA. This list contains all the species that have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and benefit from SARA's protection. COSEWIC designated the fin whale as "of special concern"in May 2005. The reader will find more details in the following sections regarding the addition of wild species, in particular fin whale, to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and its legal consequences.
1.1. The role of COSEWIC
The mandate of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is to assess the status of wild animal and plant species present in Canada and assign them a designation. The Committee is comprised of specialists working in various relevant fields such as biology, ecology and Aboriginal traditional knowledge. The members of COSEWIC come from different circles, such as governments, universities, aboriginal organizations, and non-governmental organizations. They are appointed according to their expertise, and must provide independent, impartial and scientific advice and recommendations in accordance with the mission of COSEWIC.
COSEWIC assesses the biological status of wildlife species by using the best scientific, community and traditional knowledge available. It reviews research and takes into account community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge. In its species assessment, COSEWIC uses rigorous assessment criteria based on those developed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The first step in assessing the status of a wildlife species is to request a status report, which will then be reviewed by peers and approved by a sub-committee of experts on the species. During a meeting of COSEWIC members (once or twice a year), the status report is examined, and discussions are held in order to determine whether the species is at risk, and if necessary, to provide a status designation.
The statuses provided, which represent risk level categories, are as follows:
- "Extinct" species: any species that no longer exists;
- "Extirpated" species:any species that no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but exist elsewhere;
- "Endangered" species:any species facing imminent extirpation or extinction;
- "Threatened" species:any species likely to become endangered if limiting factors affecting it are not reversed;
- "Of special concern" species: any species raising concerns because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activity or to certain natural phenomena.
COSEWIC submits its species assessment to the Minister of the Environment, who, in collaboration with the other competent ministers if necessary, initiates the process of adding the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
For more information, please visit the COSEWIC Web site at the following address:
1.2. Wildlife species listing process
Once COSEWIC has determined that a wildlife species is "at risk", the first step to ensure its protection is to add it to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, otherwise, it will not benefit from SARA protection. When COSEWIC submits its assessment to the Minister of the Environment, the Minister must produce a recommendation and present it to the Governor in Council (GIC). Within nine months of receiving the COSEWIC assessment (from the Minister of the Environment), GIC must react to the report and recommendation in one of the following ways:
- accept the assessment and add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk;
- decide not to add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk;
- return the assessment to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.
After nine months, if the Governor in Council has not make any decision, the Minister of the Environment will have to add the species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, as recommended by COSEWIC.
The Governor in Council's decision will initially be based on the advice of COSEWIC, which is based on the biological status of the species. However, in order to make an informed decision, the Government of Canada must assess other factors such as the social and economic impacts that could occur from adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. This consultation is an opportunity for concerned Canadians to express their point of view and voice their concerns on this issue.
Once a species is listed as "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened", two processes are triggered. Initially, a series of prohibitions are adopted to protect the species, and in order to begin its recovery, a recovery strategy and an action plan are developed. In the case of the species "of special concern", no prohibition applies, but a management plan must be developed, and the potential impacts of the threats identified on the species must be monitored.
Under the terms of SARA, Fisheries and Oceans Canada must ensure the protection of all aquatic species at risk. When a species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk with an "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" status, prohibitions are automatically applied. The Act prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of any individual belonging to that species. It also prohibits people from possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading individuals of a species at risk. As well, the Act prohibits the damage or destruction of the residence or any part of the species' critical habitat, as defined within a recovery strategy or an action plan.
It should be noted that these prohibitions prescribed by SARA for "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" status do not apply to "special concern" species. However, protection measures provided by other laws and regulations still apply. Furthermore, a management plan must be developed in collaboration and consultation with other stakeholders in order to expose in detail the conservation measures for the species and its habitat.
1.4. Recovery planning and management plan
The goal of the recovery process for "extirpated", "endangered" or "threatened" species is to limit the causes of decline for that species by putting emphasis on stewardship and public awareness, among other things. First, a recovery strategy is prepared containing recovery objectives and strategies that are developed according to the threats on the species. Thereafter, an action plan is developed, which details the actions flowing from the recovery strategy. These two documents must indicate the critical habitat of the species as well as activities that might potentially destroy it. The program must include a schedule of the researches to be undertaken in case of a lack of knowledge. Once the critical habitat has been identified, the competent Minister must make sure there are legal tools to protect this critical habitat.
Planning the recovery of a species requires teamwork. The competent Minister must therefore gather federal, provincial or territorial government ministers, management boards, Aboriginal organizations, landowners, and other people likely to be interested in the recovery of the species, and consult with them during the development of the recovery strategy, which is a continuous process. The competent Minister must also prepare a report on the implementation of the recovery strategy, and the progress made towards meeting its objectives every 5 years.
In the case of a "special concern" species, a management plan must be developed. It differs from a recovery strategy and an action plan because it establishes objectives and goals aiming at maintaining sustainable population levels for a species that is particularly sensitive to environmental factors, but is not endangered.
In collaboration with various stakeholders, the competent Minister must prepare a management plan within the three years after registering a wildlife species as being "of special concern". When preparing the action plan, the competent Minister can adopt an approach based on several species or on ecosystems. Like recovery strategies, management plans are dynamic documents that can be modified to add new data.
Once the recovery strategies, action plans, or management plans are developed, they are published on the Public Registry (see next section). Anyone can make comments to the competent Minister in writing concerning the recovery strategy, the action plan, or the management plan for a listed animal or plant species. The general public has 60 days, after publication of the strategy or the plans in the Registry, to inform the Minister of their position. Within 30 days of the closing of the public commentary period, the proposed management plan must be completed. Management plans are assessed every five years and upgraded when needed.
1.5. Public Registry
The SARA Public Registry, available on the Internet, is a complete source of information on issues covered by the Act giving access to public records concerning the administration of SARA. It is a key instrument in allowing the government to respect its commitment to support public contribution in the environmental decision making process.
The Registry includes various documents, such as regulations, orders, agreements, guidelines, standards and codes of practice. Furthermore, it contains status reports, recovery strategies, action plans, as well as management plans. The Public Registry can be found at the following address:
- Date Modified: