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COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet

Président du COSEPAC / Chair of COSEWIC

Co-président, sous-comité des mammifères terrestres du COSEPAC

Co-chair, COSEWIC Terrestrial Mammals Specialist Subcommittee

Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke

Sherbrooke , Québec J1K 2R1

Tél. (819) 821-8000 poste/ext 2061  Fax (819) 821-8049


12th August 2005

The Honourable Stéphane Dion

Minister of the Environment

Government of Canada

Ottawa (Ontario)

K1A 0H3

Dear Minister,

You will find enclosed the 2004 -2005 annual report of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), submitted to your attention pursuant to the Species at Risk Act. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of COSEWIC and your work for biodiversity conservation in Canada.

I will start by responding to four elements in your letter of 10th January 2005, sent in the name of the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council:

  1. ‘Appoint members of the new Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee and develop procedures for incorporating ATK into the assessment process’
  2. As set out in the annual report, COSEWIC has developed, with representatives of the 5 national aboriginal organizations, a procedure for appointing members of the ATK subcommittee, for selecting subcommittee co-chairs, and to enable the writing of ATK reports for species chosen by the committee on ATK. With this in mind, COSEWIC has solicited member nominations from these 5 organizations. At the present time, I have had no official word of any nominations sent to either COSEWIC or you. The only two members of the subcommittee are the two current co-chairs. Minister, COSEWIC has been working very hard on this matter, and we are ready to welcome other members and complete the subcommittee, but this will not be possible without candidate nominations.Aside from this, and with the cooperation of the two co-chairs, we are continuing to try and incorporate ATK into our assessments as best we can. The recent status reports on the Peary Caribou and beluga whales are good examples of inclusion of ATK, as it was taken into consideration at the time of the assessments. I should note that ATK is a better enhancement when presented alongside scientific knowledge.

  3. ‘Considerably develop the incorporation of local knowledge into the assessment process as required by SARA’
  4. As set out in the annual report, COSEWIC undertook three initiatives for incorporating more community knowledge into the assessment process: using interim reports to acquire knowledge, preparing a web questionnaire to give communities the opportunity to contribute to assessments, and forming a working group to develop other methods of acquiring, assessing, and incorporating local knowledge into our assessment process. We have also made efforts to establish contacts with groups that could help us in this task (fishermen, trappers etc.). Finally, several members of COSEWIC, including myself, have made several presentations to schools, universities, and stakeholder groups, to illustrate the COSEWIC assessment process and its role within SARA.

  5. ‘find ways to rationalize the reassessment process for species at risk given the increasing demands COSEWIC must face every ten years’
  6. Where it is evident that the status has not changed enough to justify a change in assessment, COSEWIC will evaluate the possibility of not producing updated status reports. We will soon be able to take advantage of a system of “live documents” for which we have copyright and which we will be able to use as a starting point for updates. The work of the recovery teams could also help us in producing reports that can be updated and are easier to evaluate. Conversely, we are facing increasing pressures to include more information (including community knowledge) in some status reports, and there has been an increase in the number of unsolicited reports, especially from certain jurisdictions. Unsolicited reports bypass our process of establishing priorities for assessing new species and we have to produce supplementary reassessments every 10 years. I should also stress the endless requests for additional consultations from certain wildlife management boards that then become suddenly silent when we ask them for information during the assessment process.

  7. ‘organize, if possible, a workshop focussed on assessing the risk of extinction for marine fish species’
  8. We organized the workshop in Halifax at the beginning of March, and you will find this in the final report. I would like to thank you for the idea since this workshop has had a very positive effect on our capability to assess marine fishes, in identifying the difficulties faced in the past and showing us potential solutions. COSEWIC has received some specific suggestions which it is in the process of evaluating. The workshop and subsequent meetings (most notably a briefing of selected EC and DFO employees, as well as a meeting with The Honourable Trevor Taylor at St. John’s, Newfoundland) allowed us to illustrate the differences between perceptions of COSEWIC operations and our working reality. I was personally very relieved to find that experts participating in this workshop have had very few criticisms so far regarding COSEWIC’s assessments of marine fishes.The final Report on the Marine Fish Workshop and recommendations for COSEWIC is included in this annual report and is publicly available.

This report contains the results of species assessments carried out during the November 2004 and May 2005 sessions. As agreed with your predecessor, status reports relevant to these assessments were finalized and translated and are now on the SARA Public Registry. Some of the status reports (Lake Sturgeon, Westslope Cutthroat Trout) could not be finalized in time and will be sent with the next annual report. The assessment results for the latter species have been sent to you for information purposes only and should not trigger the response process pursuant to section 25 of SARA. The report on the Okanagan Population of Chinook Salmon will also be ready for the next annual report.

There are now 3 species from SARA's Schedule 2 left to be reassessed by COSEWIC by June, 2006, namely the Blackfin Cisco, the Great Lakes Deepwater Sculpin and  the Lake Erie Watersnake. To ensure that COSEWIC has the time it requires for a thorough reassessment of the status of those 3 species, I am taking this opportunity to request an extension for one more year (until June 2007) .

Yours Sincerely,


Marco Festa-Bianchet

Chair of COSEWIC

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