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Consultation Workbook on the Addition of Four Aquatic Species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk- Lake Winnipeg Physa snail, Channel darter, Shortjaw cisco, Atlantic Cod (Arctic population)

Part I: Addition Of Species to the Species at Risk Act

Public consultation

Background

The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the ‘SARA list’.

The existing SARA list reflects the 233 species the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) had assessed and found to be at risk at the time of the reintroduction of SARA (then known as Bill C-5), to the House of Commons on October 9th, 2002. Since that time, COSEWIC has assessed or reassessed additional species as being at risk, making them eligible for consideration for addition to the SARA list by the Minister of the Environment. Aquatic species are the subject of consultations being conducted by the Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Canada. This document deals with four aquatic species which occur in Ontario, the Prairie Provinces and the Arctic, under the jurisdiction of the Central and Arctic Region of Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO).

Newly eligible species occurring in parks are administered by the Parks Canada Agency, which was formerly under the authority of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and is now under the authority of the Minister of the Environment. Responsibility for those species (both terrestrial and aquatic) that occur within parks, is shared between the Parks Canada Agency and either Environment Canada or Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Reflecting government policy, SARA has been designed to ensure the persistence of Canadian wildlife species and the habitats that support them, while embracing Canadian values of participation. Public involvement is integral to the process of listing species as being at risk, as it is to the ultimate protection of Canadian wildlife. The best way to secure the survival of species at risk and their habitats is through the active participation of all those concerned. Your comments on this document will be given serious consideration.

Purpose of the consultation

Having received the COSEWIC assessment of the species’ status, the Minister of the Environment must recommend to the Governor in Council one of the following possible courses of action as set out in SARA:

  1. that the COSEWIC assessment be accepted and the species be added to the SARA list; or
  2. that the species not be added to the SARA list; or
  3. that the species be referred back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

The Government of Canada is obligated to take one of these actions within nine months of the Governor in Council having received the assessment from the Minister of the Environment.

COSEWIC bases its assessments solely on its evaluation of the biological status of each species. Consultation with Canadians regarding the potential impacts of the addition of each species to the SARA list will occur before the Minister of the Environment can arrive at informed decisions as to the appropriate course of action, in accordance with the options outlined above. Of particular interest in these discussions is the identification of the benefits and costs of adding or not adding each of the species to the SARA list, relative to the potential impacts on these species and on society of not adding them.

In this context, before the government makes decisions regarding the SARA list, Canadians will have the opportunity to express their views and concerns. This consultation allows those interested to contribute to the government decision-making process. Where applicable, Wildlife Management Boards will be consulted. Aboriginal people identified as being affected will have the opportunity to contribute to the process. Other members of the public that are either affected or interested will have the opportunity to provide their views. This includes, but is not limited to, industries, industry groups and resource users, landowners, land users and environmental non-government organizations.

Process of public consultations

Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. This document has been posted on the Public Registry. Affected Aboriginal people and other identified concerned groups will be contacted.

This document will be circulated to provincial and territorial jurisdictions, Wildlife Management Boards, federal departments and agencies. Notice will also be sent to recognized stakeholders, including environmental and industrial non-government organizations and individuals who have made their interests known to  Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Other audiences may be engaged directly through other forms of consultation.

Role and impact of public consultation

The results of this public consultation are of great relevance to the entire process of listing species at risk. The comments received will be carefully reviewed and evaluated. They will then be documented in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS). The RIAS is an integral part of the federal regulatory process and is published with all regulatory proposals in the Canada Gazette Part I.

Following initial consultations, a draft Order (an instrument that serves notice of a decision taken by the executive arm of government) proposing to list all or some of the newly assessed species under consideration will be prepared. This draft Order will be published along with the RIAS in the Canada Gazette Part I for a comment period. The Minister of the Environment will take into consideration comments and any additional information received, following publication in the Canada Gazette Part I. The Minister will then make a recommendation to the Governor in Council on whether to add certain species to the SARA list or to refer them back to COSEWIC. The final decision will be published in Canada Gazette Part II and on the Public Registry.

Process of identifying and listing species at risk

The Species at Risk Act

The Species at Risk Act strengthens and enhances the Government of Canada’s capacity to protect Canadian wildlife species, subspecies and distinct populations that are at risk of becoming Extinct or Extirpated. The Act applies only to species on the SARA list.

Openness and transparency, including public consultation, is required in making decisions about which species should be included on the SARA list. The process begins with the assessment of a species as being at risk by COSEWIC. Upon receipt of these assessments, the Minister of the Environment then has 90 days to report on how he or she intends to respond to the assessment and to the extent possible, provide timelines for action. The Minister will then make a recommendation to the Governor in Council on whether to add certain species to the SARA list or to refer them back to COSEWIC. Once a species is added to the SARA list, specific actions must be taken within specified time periods to help ensure that species’ protection and recovery.

Process and role of COSEWIC

COSEWIC comprises experts on wildlife species at risk. Their backgrounds are in the fields of biology, ecology, genetics, aboriginal traditional knowledge and other relevant fields and they come from various communities, including government, academia, Aboriginal organizations and non-government organizations.

Initially, COSEWIC commissions a status report for the evaluation of the conservation status of a species. To be accepted, status reports must be peer-reviewed and approved by a subcommittee of species specialists. In special circumstances assessments can be done on an emergency basis.

COSEWIC then meets to examine the status report, discuss the species and determine whether or not the species is at risk and if so, assess the level of risk.

For more information on COSEWIC visit:

www.cosewic.gc.ca.

Terms used to define the degree of risk to a species

The degree of risk to a species is categorized according to the terms Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern. A species is assessed by COSEWIC as Extirpated when it is no longer found in the wild in Canada but still exists elsewhere. It is Endangered if it is facing imminent extirpation or extinction. An assessment of Threatened means that the species is likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction. COSEWIC assesses a species as Special Concern if it may become a Threatened or Endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Significance of the addition of a species to the SARA list

The protection that comes into effect following the addition of a species to the SARA list depends upon the degree of risk assigned to the species, the type of species and where it occurs.

Protection for listed Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species

Under the Act, prohibitions protect individuals of Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species. These prohibitions make it an offence to kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a species listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened, or to damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of an Endangered or a Threatened species. The Act also makes it an offence to possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a species that is Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened or a part or derivative of one. These prohibitions came into force June 1st, 2004.

The focus of protection will be on those species for which the federal government has direct legal authority. The protection is in force for all listed birds protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and for listed aquatic species. The prohibitions also apply to all listed species on federal lands.

For all other listed Endangered, Threatened and Extirpated species, the provinces and territories have the responsibility to ensure that they receive adequate protection. Should species not be effectively protected, SARA has “safety-net” provisions that give the federal government the power to make an Order securing their protection. The federal government would consult with the jurisdiction concerned and the public before any safety-net provisions would be invoked.

Exceptions to these prohibitions may be authorized by the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. These ministers can enter into agreements or issue permits only for research relating to the conservation of a species that is conducted by qualified scientists, for activities that benefit a listed species or enhance its chances of survival, and for activities that incidentally affect a listed species. These exceptions can be made only when it is established that all reasonable alternatives have been considered and the best solution has been adopted, when all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity, and when the survival or recovery of the species will not be jeopardized.

Protection for listed species of Special Concern

The prohibitions of SARA for species listed as Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened will not apply to species of Special Concern; however any existing protections and prohibitions, such as those authorized by the Migratory Birds Convention Act or the Fisheries Act, continue to be in force.

Recovery strategies and action plans for Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species

The addition of an Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened species to the SARA list triggers the requirement for the preparation of a recovery strategy and action plan which will be the subject of separate consultations.

Recovery strategies will be completed and made available on the SARA Public Registry to allow for public review and comment, within one year for newly listed Endangered and within two years for Threatened and Extirpated species.

Recovery strategies will address the known threats to the species and its habitat. They will identify areas where more research is needed and population objectives that will help ensure the species’ survival or recovery and will include a statement of the timeframe. Recovery strategies and action plans will identify, to the extent possible, the critical habitat of the species. Action plans will include measures to address threats, help the species recover and protect critical habitat. Measures to implement the recovery strategy will also be identified in the action plan.

Recovery strategies and action plans will be prepared in cooperation with Wildlife Management Boards and aboriginal organizations directly affected by them and with the jurisdictions responsible for the management of the species. Landowners and other stakeholders directly affected by the recovery strategy will also be consulted.

Management plans for Species of Special Concern

For species of Special Concern, management plans will be prepared and made available on the Public Registry within three years of their addition to the SARA list, allowing for public review and comment. Management plans will include appropriate conservation measures for the species and for its habitat.

Management plans will be prepared in cooperation with jurisdictions responsible for the management of the species, including directly affected Wildlife Management Boards and aboriginal organizations. Landowners, lessees and others directly affected by a management plan will also be consulted.

Public comments solicited on the addition of four aquatic species to the SARA list

The four aquatic species include the Lake Winnipeg Physa snail, channel darter, shortjaw cisco, and Atlantic cod (Arctic population). They have been assessed or reassessed by COSEWIC as species at risk and are being considered for addition to the SARA list.

Please e-mail your comments to Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Central and Arctic Region at:

fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

by no later than the 15th November, 2004, or by regular mail, please address comments to:

Central and Arctic Region

SARA Coordinator

Freshwater Institute

Fisheries & Oceans Canada

501 University Crescent

Winnipeg, Manitoba

R3T 2N6

Your comments will be reviewed and used to consider whether or not to place each species on the SARA list.