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Legal Listing of Aquatic Species

3.0 Information on Species Designated by COSEWIC

The rest of this workbook is structured to provide you with specific information on each of the 10 designated species. Information is provided on COSEWIC status, distribution and biology, reason for designation by COSEWIC, potential management measures, and impacts. For the full status report for each species, including the threats and limiting factors, please visit: www.sararegistry.gc.ca.

In discussing impacts associated with legally listing a species it is important to note that these impacts flow from management actions that are implemented to:

  • comply with the automatic prohibition provisions in the act; and
  • achieve recovery plan objectives.

In general, management actions implemented to comply with automatic prohibition are immediate, while those implemented to achieve the recovery plan objectives are longer term. A recovery plan will likely expand the initial management measures taken to protect the species and its critical habitat. Any additional or expanded measures will only be implemented after further consultations.

3.1 Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) Status: Endangered Last Examination by COSEWIC: May 2002

Where the species is found and biology:

The blue whale is the largest animal on earth. Blue whales are a rare sight in BC waters, usually travelling alone or in small
groups and prefering the open ocean. The three main populations recognized are: the north Atlantic, north Pacific,
and southern hemisphere. Distribution is not continuous across the range. Blue whales lactate for seven months during
which the calf will grow at a rate of about 180 pounds per day to nearly 25 tons.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Blue whales off the coast of British Columbia are likely part of a population based in the north eastern Pacific. The population was reduced by whaling. The rarity of sightings (visual and acoustic) suggests their numbers are currently very low (significantly less than 250 mature individuals). Threats for blue whales along the coast of B.C. are unknown, but may include ship strikes, pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, and long-term changes in climate (which could affect the abundance of their zooplankton prey).

Possible Protective Measures and Impacts:

There are currently no planned measures as a result of automatic prohibitions. However, over the longer term, recovery planning may result in management measures that impact on individuals, businesses, and governments.

Examples of potential protective measures may include:

  • Developing guidelines for oil and gas development/seismic exploration.
  • Modifying shipping traffic.
  • Establishing strict guidelines for those who wish to carry out research on the species, or in areas of their critical habitat.
  • Conducting more research on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities, especially more research.

It should be noted that management measures will be developed through the recovery planning process, and implemented after further consultation.

3.2 Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) Status: Endangered Last Examination by COSEWIC: May 2003

Where the species is found and biology:

In British Columbia sei whales rarely come near the coast, but are sometimes found alone or in small groups offshore.
Migrations are poorly known and probably quite irregular. Sei whales mature to about 20 tons and are known to eat 220-440
pounds of food per day. Sei whales lactate from four to six months.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

This was one of the most abundant species sought by whalers off the B.C. coast (with over 4,000 individuals killed) and was
also commonly taken in other areas of the eastern North Pacific. Sei whales have not been reported in B.C. since whaling ended and may now be gone. There are few, if any, mature individuals remaining in B.C. waters; and there is clear evidence of a dramatic decline caused by whaling and no sign of recovery.

Possible Protective Measures and Impacts:

There are currently no planned measures as a result of automatic prohibitions. However, over the longer term, recovery planning may result in management measures that impact on individuals, businesses, and governments.

Examples of potential protective measures may include:

  • Developing guidelines for oil and gas development/seismic exploration.
  • Modifying shipping traffic.
  • Establishing strict guidelines for those who wish to carry out research on the species or in areas or their critical habitat.
  • Conducting more research on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities, especially more research.

It should be noted that management measures will be developed through the recovery planning process and implemented after further consultation.