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COSEWIC Annual Report 2003

Appendix II




COSEWIC adds to Canada's list of Species at Risk

Ottawa, November 29, 2002 - Eleven species, including the Oregon Forestsnail and the Silver Hair Moss have been added to the Canadian list of Species at Risk following scientific assessments completed this week by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

There are now 415 species in various risk categories on the list, including 141 that are Endangered, 99 that are Threatened, and 142 species of Special concern. In addition, 21 species are Extirpated (no longer found in Canada), and 12 Extinct.

The Scotian Shelf population of the Northern Bottlenose Whale was uplisted to Endangered. The estimated population of these whales, which are mainly found in an underwater canyon in the Atlantic Ocean known as "the Gully" off the coast of Nova Scotia, totals about 130 individuals. Northern Bottlenose Whales are known as one of the "friendliest" species of whales, often coming right up to boats that sail into their habitat. This friendliness made them an easy target for whalers, who actively hunted the species until the mid 1960s. The Northern Bottlenose Whale, a beaked whale, is one of the deepest divers of all mammals, regularly diving to depths below 1,000 metres.

The Scotian Shelf population of the Northern Bottlenose Whale is threatened by oil and gas exploration and development in and around its prime habitat near Sable Island. Beaked whales elsewhere have perished because of loud underwater noises associated with undersea exploration and military exercises.

COSEWIC assessed 31 species during its five-day meeting in Ottawa. Assessments on two additional species were deferred. Fifteen species were assessed for the first time. Of these, the Oregon Forestsnail, the Lake Winnipeg Physa Snail, the Streambank Lupine and the Forked Three-awned Grass were added to the list in the Endangered category, which is the highest category of risk for species still present in Canada.

Seven of the species that were re-assessed were uplisted to a higher category of risk, including three freshwater fishes (the Pugnose Shiner, the Speckled Dace, and the Northern Madtom) and three plants (the Small-flowered Lipocarpha, the Common Hoptree, and the Small-flowered Sand-verbena).

The Macoun's Shining Moss was designated Extinct. Its only documented site was deforested in 1892, and it has never been found again. Two species have been determined to be Extirpated from Canada: the Puget Oregonian Snail, from southwestern British Columbia, and the Incurved Grizzled Moss, from southern Ontario.

"COSEWIC has recently devoted much time and energy to reassessments of Threatened and Endangered species," said committee chair Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet," and we are now ready for the government's proposed Species at Risk legislation."

COSEWIC is an independent organization of wildlife experts that uses the best information available to determine the level of risk of extinction for Canada's wildlife species. Since the committee was formed 25 years ago, it has completed 589 species assessments. COSEWIC is composed of government and non-government members, members from academic institutions, and one member with expertise in Aboriginal traditional knowledge. COSEWIC will hold its next meeting in the Yukon in the spring of 2003, the first time the Committee will meet North of 60.

Definition of COSEWIC terms and risk categories

Species: Any indigenous species, subspecies, variety or geographically defined population of wild fauna and flora.
Population: A geographically or otherwise distinct group of plants or animals that has little demographic or genetic exchange with other such groups.
Extinct: A species that no longer exists.
Extirpated: A species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.
Endangered: A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
Threatened: A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special Concern: Those species that are particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events but are not endangered or threatened species.
Not at Risk: A species that has been evaluated and found not to be at risk.
Data Deficient: A species for which there is insufficient scientific information to support status designation.

For further information, contact:

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet
(819) 563-6226
(819) 821-8000 (Ext. 2061)

Inquiries on the Northern Bottlenose Whale should be directed to:

Dr. Hal Whitehead
Co-chair, Marine Mammal Specialist Sub-committee
(902) 479-1861

Inquiries on mosses should be directed to:

Dr. René Belland
Co-chair, Plants and Lichens Species Sub-committee
(780) 987-3054

General inquiries:
COSEWIC Secretariat
(819) 997-4991

Note to members of the media: Dr. Festa-Bianchet, Dr. Belland and Dr. Whitehead will be in transit Friday afternoon November 29, but will return calls and e-mail messages late in the afternoon or in the early evening.