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COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006

COSEWIC Annual Report

presented to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) - 2006

Table of Contents

Item I – COSEWIC Activities

  1. Species Assessment Meeting – Spring, 2006
  2. Summary of the Species Assessment Meeting
  3. Important Notes Regarding Status Assessments
  4. Species Assessments returned by the Minister to COSEWIC for further information or consideration
  5. Emergency Assessment
  6. Species Selected for Status Report Preparation to be included in the Next Call for Bids Fall 2006
  7. Annual Subcommittee Meetings

Item II – Election of Chair of COSEWIC

Item III – COSEWIC Membership

Item IV – COSEWIC Operations and Procedures

Item V – Species Status Assignments

Item VI – Wildlife Species Assessed by COSEWIC since its Inception

Appendix I (Press release)

Appendix II (Species Selected for Status Report Preparation to be included in the Next Call for Bids Fall 2006)

Appendix III (List of Members)

Appendix IV

Appendix V (Approach to Streamlining Reassessments)

Appendix VI (Guidelines for recognizing Designatable Units Below the Species Level)

Appendix VII (Detailed COSEWIC Species Assessments, April 2006 )

Appendix VIII (August 2006 Canadian Species at Risk Publication Cover)


(Committee on the
Status of Endangered
Wildlife in Canada)


(Comité sur la situation
des espèces en péril
au Canada)

August 31, 2006

The Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of the Environment
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street
28th Floor
Gatineau, Québec
K1A 0H3

Dear Minister Ambrose,

Please find enclosed the 2005-2006 Annual Report of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which I respectfully submit to you and to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC), thus fulfilling the obligations to COSEWIC under Section 26 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

I wish to express my sincere thanks for the support your ministry has provided to COSEWIC and to the conservation and protection of species at risk in Canada. I also want to acknowledge with sincere thanks the exemplary contributions of Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet who was Chair of COSEWIC for the past four years and during most of the period encompassed by this report. Lastly, I wish to draw your attention to some of the key activities undertaken by COSEWIC during the past year.

Species Status Assessments: In April 2006, COSEWIC assessed/reassessed the status of 68 wildlife species, based on 64 Status Reports, more than 10% of which were unsolicited. The species assessment results can be summarized as follows: Extirpated –1; Endangered – 28; Threatened – 10; Special Concern – 15. Fourteen species were assessed as Not at Risk and 3 were examined and found to be Data Deficient. Following the reassessment of the Dwarf Woolly-heads (Psilocarphus brevissimus) in April 2006, the Plants and Lichens Species Specialist Subcommittee revised the 2001 Tall Woolly-heads (Psilocarphus elatior) status report to remove all references to the misidentified plants of the Prairie Population. This population consists of plants that were recently confirmed to belong to the Prairie Population of the Dwarf Woolly-heads. Furthermore, due to this population’s misidentification, COSEWIC recommends that the Prairie Population of Tall Woolly-heads be deactivated and that the Pacific Population of the Tall Woolly-heads be renamed Tall Woolly-heads.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee: COSEWIC is very pleased to report that the inaugural meeting of the ATK Subcommittee (SC) was held in February, 2006. The ATK SC co-chairs (Henry Lickers, Larry Carpenter) welcomed 10 new members who were nominated by their national organizations (the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples). The request that these individuals be appointed to the ATK SC was communicated to you on 30 March 2006. The ATK SC unanimously recommended that Mr. Lickers (Mohawk Council of Akwesasne) be renewed as co-chair for a further term of four years. Mr. Carpenter (Wildlife Management Advisory Council, Northwest Territories), who has been nominated for appointment as a member of NACOSAR, will continue to serve as co-chair until the end of his current term of office (December 31, 2007). The ATK SC has established working groups to develop ATK processes and protocols, and to produce a prioritized list of species of interest/concern to Aboriginal Peoples. The Subcommittee has also identified members who will contribute to ATK inclusion on COSEWIC Species Specialist Subcommittees (SSCs).

Emergency Assessments: In response to a request for an emergency assessment of the Sakinaw Lake population of sockeye salmon, Dr. Festa-Bianchet established an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee (EAS) which then assessed the status of the Sakinaw Lake sockeye, based on information available through 2005. As communicated to you on 20 April 2006, the EAS unanimously recommended that the conservation status of the Sakinaw Lake population of Sockeye salmon warrants an Emergency Listing under Section 29(1) of SARA.

Referral of Species to COSEWIC: Based on recommendations reported in the Canada Gazette in December 2005, the Governor-in-Council (GIC) referred six species back to COSEWIC for further consideration, in accordance with Section 27(1.1)(c) of SARA: Atlantic Cod (Arctic Population), Bocaccio, Cusk, Harbour Porpoise, Lake Winnipeg Physa, and Shortjaw Cisco. At its species assessment meeting in April 2006, COSEWIC, in consultation with the appropriate SSCs, discussed at length the reasons, as reported in the Gazette, for sending these species back to COSEWIC and decided on the following courses of action. A new status report will be commissioned for Shortjaw Cisco. COSEWIC confirms its original assessment of the Lake Winnipeg Physa as an Endangered Species and of the Harbour Porpoise (Northwest Atlantic Population) as a Species of Special Concern. Regarding the other species, COSEWIC concluded that there was no substantive basis for the criticisms of these assessments reported in the Canada Gazette. Coupled with the fact that COSEWIC had not been provided with any new information pertaining to these species in the 3 to 4 years that had passed since these species were originally assessed, COSEWIC concluded that there was no basis for a review of its original assessments.

I note also that you have recommended (Canada Gazette, June 2006) that Verna’s Flower Moth be referred back to COSEWIC, and that the GIC has accepted your recommendation (Canada Gazette, August 2006). After consulting with the Arthropods SSC, COSEWIC will discuss this species referral at its Species Assessment Meeting in November 2006.

I would like to draw your attention to a matter of considerable concern to COSEWIC, given its bearing on COSEWIC’s ability to fulfill its mandate, as specified by SARA, in a timely and expeditious manner. To date, based on the information reported in the Canada Gazette, COSEWIC has been requested to review its original assessments primarily because of the reported availability of new information that would significantly affect the assessment of species status (e.g., Bocaccio) or because of disagreement with COSEWIC’s assessment (e.g., Verna’s Flower Moth, Cusk). In the former case, the species referrals were not accompanied by the new information alluded to in the Gazette. Indeed, the time between the initial recommendation for these species referrals and the communication of the new information to COSEWIC exceeded 6 months. Delays such as these negatively influence COSEWIC’s ability to fulfill its role in the implementation of SARA.

 I note further that disagreements between COSEWIC’s assessments and those that other individuals or agencies might make are understandable and not unexpected. But disagreement with COSEWIC’s assessments does not constitute a substantive basis for referring species back to COSEWIC, further delaying the decision as to whether to include or exclude species in Schedule 1 of SARA.

Streamlining Reassessments: COSEWIC has developed and approved a protocol for streamlining the reassessment of species as required by SARA every 10 years. As detailed in Appendix IV of the enclosed report, the streamlining process will be effective for those species for which there is unanimity, among the responsible SSCs, COSEWIC members from relevant range jurisdictions, Wildlife Management Boards (WMBs), and Recovery Teams, that the status of the species is to remain unchanged. Under these circumstances, the responsible SSC will update the living status report document with new information, seeking input from COSEWIC members from range jurisdictions, from WMBs, and from the Recovery Teams. The ‘in-house’ update report will then form the basis on which COSEWIC will assess the species. COSEWIC’s protocol is submitted herein for approval by CESCC.

Incorporation of Community Knowledge (CK): COSEWIC has developed a procedure for better incorporating CK into its species status assessments. Potential holders of CK are identified by SSCs, range jurisdictions, and status report writers, and COSEWIC then communicates with these parties and provides interim status reports to those who express an interest in reviewing them. COSEWIC has also updated its web site to better inform potential holders of CK of the various means by which they can contribute knowledge to the assessment process.

Designatable Units (DUs): To increase the consistency with which it assigns status to DUs, COSEWIC has revised its Guidelines for Recognizing Designatable Units below the Species Level to better describe the circumstances under which COSEWIC may combine designatable units when assigning status. It is proposed that when a COSEWIC assessment has been conducted using DUs below the species level, and when adjacent DUs are classified as having the same status on the basis of the same criteria, then COSEWIC may apply a single status assessment to those units if a single assessment better addresses the conservation status of the units that are combined. COSEWIC’s suggested revision is submitted in the enclosed report (Appendix V) for approval by CESCC.

Habitat Change / Ecosystem Approach: In collaboration with the Province of British Columbia, COSEWIC undertook a project to document historical changes in habitat in the Okanagan. A similar project, focusing on the native habitat of the Prairies, will be initiated with the Province of Alberta. COSEWIC has also established a working group to examine how an ecosystem approach might be used as a tool in assessing the status of species that share habitat or common threats.

I would be pleased to elaborate further on any of the points discussed above.

Yours sincerely,


Jeffrey Hutchings
Chair of COSEWIC