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Information on Species

Information on Species

The rest of this workbook is structured to provide you with specific information on each of the five COSEWIC proposed species that are being considered for legal listing. Information is provided on COSEWIC status, distribution and biology, reason for designation by COSEWIC, potential protective measures, and impacts. For the full status report for each species, including the threats and limiting factors, please visit: www.sararegistry.gc.ca.

When discussing any impacts associated with legally listing a species it is important to consider that impacts could result from management actions implemented to:

  • comply with the automatic prohibition provisions in the Act for species listed as extirpated, endangered, and threatened; and
  • achieve recovery plan objectives

In general, actions taken 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 for species listed as extirpated, endangered, and threatened. Any additional or expanded measures will only be implemented after further consultations.

3.1  White Sturgeon pg.  8
3.2  Grey Whalepg. 10
3.3  Harbour Porpoise pg. 12
3.4  Steller Sea Lion pg. 14
3.5  Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel pg. 16

 

3.1 White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

Status:

 

Last Examination by COSEWIC:

 

Species biology and distribution:

 

 COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Possible Protective Measures and

Impacts:

Endangered

November 2003

White sturgeon are a primitive fish that first appeared over 175 million years ago. They are the largest, longest-lived freshwater fish in North America, that can attain over 100 years in age, and measure almost 6 m and 700 kg in size. The body lacks scales, and possesses five rows of bony plates, or scutes. The mouth is located on the underside of the head, behind a row of barbels used to detect food. This species occurs in large river systems on the Pacific coast of North America. In Canada, white sturgeon are found only in the Fraser, Nechako, Columbia, and Kootenay river systems in British Columbia.

A long-lived species with a 30-40 year generation time and late maturity, that has suffered over a 50% decline in the last three generations. Three of six populations are in imminent threat of extirpation. Extant populations are subject to threats of habitat degradation and loss through dams, impoundments, channelization, dyking and pollution. Illegal fishing (poaching) and incidental catches are also limiting. In addition, a developing commercial aquaculture industry may also impose additional genetic, health and ecological risks to wild populations.

Stakeholders may be impacted from compliance with automatic prohibitions, development and implementation of a recovery plan, and the identification of critical habitat. Benefits of protection and recovery of this species would include the conservation of a unique and valuable component of Canada’s biodiversity, and the potential restoration of opportunities for commercial, recreational, tourism, and traditional uses.

Examples of potential measures to comply with automatic prohibitions and recovery planning objectives may include:

  • existing and additional restrictions on directed and incidental harvest by recreational, commercial, and aboriginal fisheries
  • enhanced monitoring and enforcement of illegal harvest
  • limitations on commercial aquaculture of white sturgeon
  • improved water management through modifications in the structure and operations of dams and other water use facilities
  • restrictions on instream and riparian activities, such as gravel extraction, dredging, log storage and handling, dyking, and construction
  • remediation of industrial, agricultural, and municipal pollution
  • control of exotic and predatory species and prevention of further introductions
  • conservation aquaculture to prevent extinction
  • habitat restoration, including floodplain reclamation, passage reestablishment, turbidity enhancement, and productivity supplementation
  • ongoing research and monitoring of population status, biology, critical habitat, and threats
  • It should be noted that management measures will be
  • developed through the recovery planning process, and  implemented after further consultation.


3.2 Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

Status:

 

Last Examination by COSEWIC:

 

Species biology and distribution:

 

 

 COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Special Concern

May 2004

The grey whale is the sole member of the family Eschrichtidae, one of the three families of baleen whales.  It is grey in colour, but is covered with whitish blotches and has a series of bumps on its dorsal ridge, giving it a distinct appearance.  A fully grown grey whale can reach 14 metres long and weigh 35 tonnes.  It follows a very predictable migration route close to shore.  In small groups, they follow the coastline, passing the west coast of Vancouver Island in March and April.  There have been some sightings in Vancouver harbour and around the mouth of the Fraser River Unlike most filter-feeding baleen whales, the grey whale feeds primarily on small crustaceans and molluscs found near the sea floor or in bottom sediments.

Grey whales migrate each year from their winter calving grounds in Mexico to their summer feeding areas in northern Alaska, Russia and Canada. Most of the population passes along the BC coastline, and some individuals repeatedly spend the entire summer feeding in BC (about 80). The population increased by 2.5% per year following the cessation of whaling, and peaked, within the range of pre-exploitation estimates, at about 27,000 animals in 1998. The extent of recovery of the summer resident group is unknown. However, over one-third of the population died from 1998 to 2002 (possibly due to a lack of food in Alaska). Birth rates, survival rates and other indicators suggest that the decline has ceased and that the population is stable or increasing since 2002. The whales are susceptible to human activities in their 4 breeding lagoons in Mexico, as well as to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with boats throughout their range. Underwater noise associated with proposed oil development in BC could alter migration patterns. The small group of summer-resident whales could also be threatened by subsistence whaling in the USA.

Possible Protective Measures and Impacts:

There are currently no new protection measures planned as a result of listing this species, and no automatic prohibitions are applied to species listed as special concern.  The Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act prohibit disturbance and guidelines for marine mammal viewing have been developed to protect marine mammals from disturbance.  Grey whales are the focus of ecotourism and private whale watching on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  The establishment of new, more specific viewing regulations is currently under consideration.  

Over the longer term, management planning may result in additional measures that impact on individuals, businesses, and governments. Benefits of protection and recovery of this species would include the conservation of a unique and valuable component of Canada’s biodiversity.  Furthermore, these populations once recovered and distributed along the coast of British Columbia, will contribute to a sustainable eco-tourism economy and serve as an indicator of a healthy productive eco-system.

Examples of potential protective measures and/or management activities may include:

  • conducting more research on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities
  • developing guidelines for oil and gas development/seismic exploration
  • modification of commercial fishing activity to avoid entanglements in migratory corridors or feeding habitats
  • modification of shipping traffic routes if collisions or disturbance are found to be a threat
  • establishing guidelines for those who wish to carry out research on the species or in areas or their critical    habitat

 

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


3.3 Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

 

Status:

 

Last Examination by COSEWIC:

 

Species biology and distribution:

 

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

 

Potential Protective Measures and Impacts:

Special Concern

November 2003

The harbour porpoise is a member of the porpoise family. It rarely reaches a length greater than 1.7 meters and weighs about 90 kilograms.  Its dark brown or grey colour on the back blends in very well with the marine environment.  The oldest recorded age for a harbour porpoise is 24 years but most do not live past their teens.  In British Columbia, they are found in shelf-waters throughout the province year-round, with the exception of some deep-water inlets. Density appears to be lower in deep-water basins, e.g., central Strait of Georgia.  Harbour porpoises feed primarily on small schooling fish.

They appear to be particularly sensitive to human activities, and are prone to becoming entrapped and killed in fishing nets. They are a short-lived, shy species that are now rarely seen at the highly developed areas of Victoria and Haro Strait. Continued development and use of its prime habitat by humans are some of the main threats. They are displaced by underwater noise, and could be affected by contaminants in their food chain. 

There are currently no new protection measures planned as a result of listing this species, and no automatic prohibitions are applied to species listed as special concern.  The Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act prohibit disturbance and guidelines for marine mammal viewing have been developed to protect marine mammals from disturbance. The establishment of new, more specific viewing regulations is currently under consideration. 

Over the longer term, management planning may result in additional measures that impact on individuals, businesses, and governments. Benefits of protection and recovery of this species would include the conservation of a unique and valuable component of Canada’s biodiversity.  Furthermore, these populations once recovered and distributed along the coast of British Columbia, will contribute to a sustainable eco-tourism economy and serve as an indicator of a healthy productive eco-system.

Examples of potential protective measures and/or management activities may include:

  • more research may be carried out on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities, especially more research on impacts of gillnets and human-created sounds, including non-military and research sonar
  • restrictions or modifications in the use of gillnets
  • restrictions on the use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices deployed in the marine environment
  • guidelines for oil and gas development/seismic exploration
  • implementation of a program to train and place independent marine mammal observers on oil and gas exploration  vessels and the increased use of fisheries observers
  • potential time/area closures on seismic activity
  • potential exclusion of oil and gas activity from areas of high use by harbour porpoise
  • guidelines may be established for those who wish to carry out research on the species
  • modifications to shipping/recreational boating traffic and guidelines for whale watching operators
  • It should be noted that protective measures will be developed through the management planning process and implemented after further consultation.


3.4 Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Status:

 Last Examination by COSEWIC:

 

Species biology and distribution:

 

 

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

 Potential Protective Measures and Impacts:

Special Concern

November 2003

 

 

Steller sea lions are the largest member of the Otariidae (eared seals, fur seals, and sea lions).  Adult males reach about 2.7-3.1 meters in length and weigh between 400-800 kilograms, whereas females measure 2.1-2.4 meters and weigh 200-300 kilograms.  Their fur consists mainly of coarse guard hairs and is usually tan in color.  The life span of males is about 20 years and that of females about 30 years.  Within Canada, Steller sea lions occur only in British Columbia and there are three main breeding areas: 1) off the north-eastern tip of Vancouver Island (rookeries on Maggot, Sartine and Triangle Islands); 2) off the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands (rookeries on the Kerouard Islands); and 3) off the northern mainland coast (rookeries on North Danger Rocks).

There are only three breeding locations in British Columbia. Although the population is increasing, they are sensitive to human disturbance while on land. Threats include the possibility of acute oil spills. There are unexplained declines in other populations to the north and west of British Columbia.

There are currently no new protection measures planned as a result of listing this species, and no automatic prohibitions are applied to species listed as special concern.  The Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act prohibit disturbance and guidelines for marine mammal viewing have been developed to protect marine mammals from disturbance. The establishment of new, more specific viewing regulations is currently under consideration. 

Over the longer term, management planning may result in additional measures and identification of critical habitat that may impact individuals, businesses, and governments. 

Benefits of protection and recovery of this species would include the conservation of a unique and valuable component of Canada’s biodiversity.  Furthermore, these populations once recovered and distributed along the coast of British Columbia, will contribute to a sustainable eco-tourism economy and serve as an indicator of a healthy productive eco-system.

Examples of potential protective measures and/or management activities may include:

  • additional research on interactions between fisheries and sea lions and assessments of how fishing may impact sea lion populations and their prey and how sea lions may interfere with fishing activities and damage fishing gear 
  • conducting research on potential threats to the species and the level of impact of various human activities such as oil spills, aquaculture, seismic exploration, etc
  • establishment of protected areas for breeding rookeries or other sensitive habitat
  • establishing guidelines for those who wish to carry
  • out research on the species or in areas or their critical habitat

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

 


3.5 Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel (Gonidea angulata)

Status:

 

Last Examination by COSEWIC:

 

Species biology and distribution

 

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

Potential Protective Measures and Impacts:

Special Concern

November 2003

The Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel is a freshwater mollusk that inhabits the bottoms of lakes and streams. Its shell is up to 125 mm long, variable in form but typically rather thin, and trapezoidal in shape. Juveniles of this species may be greenish-tan in colour while adults are typically darker, becoming bluish-black. This species’ range is limited to portions of western North America, and in Canada it is found only inthe Columbia River systemin southern British Columbia. It has been observed in several lakes and streams in the Okanagan River system, which appears to contain two distinct but severely fragmented populations. It may also occur in the Columbia River and some of its other smaller tributaries.

The distribution of this species is limited to southern British Columbia in the Okanagan and Kootenay river systems. This species has likely been impacted by the damming of the Kootenay, Columbia and Okanagan rivers and the channelization of the Okanagan River and resulted in loss or alteration of the mussel’s habitat quality and extent.

There are currently no new protection measures planned as a result of listing this species, and no automatic prohibitions are applied to species listed as special concern.  However, over the longer term, recovery planning may result in management measures that may impact individuals, businesses, and governments. Benefits of protection and recovery of this species would include the conservation of a unique and valuable component of Canada’s biodiversity.

Examples of potential protective and management measures may include:

  • improved water management through modifications in the structure and operations of dams and other water use facilities
  • restrictions on instream and riparian activities, such as logging, agriculture, and construction
  • remediation of industrial, agricultural, and municipal pollution
  • ongoing research and monitoring of population status, biology, critical habitat, and threats

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