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Recovery Strategy for the Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Atlantic Population, in Canada

Grey Whale


grey whale


About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act(SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed, and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.  Sections 37–46 of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.  Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy.   However, in the case of an extirpated species for which recovery is deemed not feasible, no further action is anticipated.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA PublicRegistry and the web site of the Recovery Secretariat.

Recovery Strategy for the Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Atlantic Population, in Canada

September 2007

Recovery of this species is considered not technically or biologically feasible at this time

Recommended citation:

Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  2007. Recovery Strategy for the Grey Whale (Atlantic population) (Eschrichtius robustus) in Canada.  Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series.   Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ottawa.  iv + 8 pp.

Additional copies:

You can download additional copies from the SARA Public Registry (

Cover illustration: J. Domm for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Également disponible en français sous le titre :

« Programme de rétablissement pour la baleine grise (Eschrichtius robustus) dans les eaux canadiennes de l’Atlantique »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2007. All rights reserved.

ISBN                       978-0-662-46916-2

Catalogue no.     En3-4/36-2007E-PDF

Content (excluding the cover illustration) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.

Declaration (recovery not feasible)

This proposed recovery strategy for the grey whale (Atlantic population) has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the species, as described in the Preface.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the grey whale (Atlantic population) as required by the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The recovery of the grey whale (Atlantic population) in Canada is neither technically nor biologically feasible at this time.  Because the population has been extirpated, as well as the unlikeliness of reintroduction of a viable population from a donor population, and the non-existence of an adjacent population to support natural recovery,recovery efforts targeted towards other species in the same geographic area or experiencing similar threats, general conservation programs in the same geographic area, and protection through SARA prohibitions protecting individuals of the species, their residences, and critical habitat will not be effective in re-establishing this population.  Recovery could only occur through reintroduction of the species, which is considered not feasible at this time.    

The feasibility determination will be re-evaluated as warranted in response to changing conditions and/or knowledge and, at least every five years as part of the mandatory report on implementation of the recovery strategy.

Responsible Jurisdictions

Under the Species at Risk Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the responsible jurisdiction for the grey whale.


This document was prepared by Howard Powles (University of Ottawa), and has benefited by reviews from John Loch, (Loch Consulting).

Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, the purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.

Because the Atlantic population of grey whale is extirpated and recovery has been determined to be not feasible, no further recovery action is considered appropriate at this time.  Accordingly, this recovery strategy will have no effect on the environment.


SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating[SARA S2(1)].

Residence protection is a SARA requirement that is separate from recovery strategy development as it relates to the general prohibitions under the Act (Section 33). To facilitate protection, residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry

In the case of an extirpated species for which the recovery strategy does not recommend its reintroduction into the wild in Canada, the prohibition pertaining to the damage or destruction of residence does not apply [SARA S33].


Fisheries and Oceans Canada has led the development of this recovery strategy for the Atlantic population of grey whale.  The development of the recovery strategy has involved: (i) the preparation of a draft addressing SARA requirements for recovery strategies for extirpated species; (ii) the circulation of this draft for review and comment by the provincial governments of Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador; (iii) public consultations on the draft strategy; and (iv) finalisation of the proposed version for posting on the SARApublic registry. 

The determination that recovery is not feasible, including the justification, was reviewed as part of the review and consultation process for the recovery strategy.  The final decision and wording of the determination were the responsibility of the DFO and took account of the comments received.

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