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Consultation Workbook on the addition of the Fawnsfoot to the SARA List

CONSULTATION WORKBOOK on the addition of the Fawnsfoot to the SARA List:


November 2008

Fisheries & Oceans Canada                                                                     text: Canada

Please send your comments on this consultation to one of the following Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO) offices:

Central and Arctic Region

SARA Coordinator

Freshwater Institute

Fisheries & Oceans Canada

501 University Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba

R3T 2N6  

Email: fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Fax: 204-983-5192

To request additional copies of the workbook, please call 1-866-538-1609.

For more information on the Species at Risk Act, please visit the Public Registry at


For more information on species at risk, please visit the Fisheries & Oceans Canada aquatic Species at Risk website:


Information on species at risk is also available on the website of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):




Fawnsfoot - National Water Research Institute                   

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The Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed on June 5, 2003, by the Government of Canada. SARA provides a framework for actions across Canada to promote the survival of wildlife species and the protection of our natural heritage. It sets out how to decide which species are a priority for action and what to do to protect a species. It identifies ways governments, organizations and individuals can work together, and it establishes penalties for failures to obey the law.

Two federal Ministers are responsible for the administration of SARA. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the competent Minister for aquatic species. The Minister of the Environment is the competent Minister for all other species at risk, including those found in national parks, national historic sites and other protected heritage areas. The Minister of the Environment is also responsible for the overall administration of the Act.

The Act protects the plants and animals included on a list within SARA (Schedule 1).  Schedule 1 is also referred to as the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and will be referred to as the SARA List in the rest of this workbook. Candidate species are proposed for addition to the SARA List as a result of the work of the scientists and conservationists who are members of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). They conduct scientific assessments of the status of species. Community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge are also included in species assessments when available. The Government then decides which species are added to the SARA List as such action could have economic or social implications.

233 species were included on the SARA List of the Act when Parliament passed SARA in December 2002. COSEWIC had already assessed these species as “at risk” using new updated assessment criteria and current information. When the Act came into force in June 2003, these species were on the initial SARA List.

Since then, COSEWIC has identified more species that are at risk. The Minister of Environment is now considering recommending those species for addition to the SARA List. As part of that process, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is currently carrying out public consultations on the Fawnsfoot. It was assessed by COSEWIC as Endangered.  The purpose of this consultation workbook is to invite Canadians to let us know whether the Fawnsfoot should be added to the SARA List.


The Species at Risk Act

The Species at Risk Act strengthens the Government of Canada’s ability to protect Canadian plants and animals in danger of becoming extinct. This protection applies only to species which are included on the SARA List. Adding a species to the SARA List requires a two-step process. The first step is identifying a species at risk and the second step is the listing of that species.

Identifying a species at risk

COSEWIC is an independent group whose mandate is to assess the status of plants and animals in Canada and identify those at risk. The committee is made up of biologists, ecologists, geneticists and individuals with Aboriginal traditional knowledge who are experts on wildlife species at risk. Members come from many areas, including government, universities, Aboriginal organizations and non-government agencies.

COSEWIC assesses the biological status of a species using the best available information on the biological status of the species. It reviews research, considers community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge, and applies strict assessment criteria. COSEWIC meets once a year to assess the biological status of species. Species that COSEWIC considers to be “at risk” are designated to one of the following categories:

Extinct –A wildlife species that no longer exists.

Extirpated – A wildlife species that is no longer found in the wild in Canada but may be found elsewhere.

Endangered – A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.

Threatened – A wildlife species likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors threatening it.

Special Concern – A wildlife species that may become a Threatened or Endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Listing a species at risk

The process of listing a species begins when COSEWIC submits its assessment to the Minister of the Environment. Upon receiving the assessment the Minister has 90 days to issue a Response Statement on how he or she intends to respond to the assessment and, to the extent possible, provide time lines for action. The Minister then forwards the species assessment to Governor in Council (GiC)[1]. Nine months after receiving the COSEWIC assessment the GiC, on the recommendations of the Minister of the Environment, can decide to…

a) Accept the COSEWIC assessment and add the species to the SARA List;

b) Not add the species to the SARA List; or,

c) Refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

GIC has nine months after receiving the COSEWIC assessment to decide whether the species should be added to the SARA List. If a decision has not been made within that time period, the Minister of the Environment will add the species to the SARA List.

What does it mean when a species or population is added to the SARA List?

The amount of protection the SARA provides depends on the assessed category. It is an offence to kill, harm, harass, possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of an Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species. It is also illegal under the Act to damage or destroy the residences of Endangered and Threatened species, or for Extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended the introduction of the species into the wild in Canada.

SARA protects all listed birds covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, all listed aquatic species and all listed species on federal lands. The provinces and territories are responsible for making sure that all listed Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species that are located outside federal lands receive adequate protection. However, if that protection is not given, the federal government can intervene, using “safety-net” provisions of SARA, but only after consulting with the province or territory concerned and carrying out public consultations.

The ministers of the Environment and of Fisheries and Oceans can, under special circumstances, make exceptions to SARA. For example, they can issue a permit that would allow a qualified scientist to carry out a research project that benefits a listed species or is required to enhance its chances of survival in the wild.  Exceptions can only be made if all reasonable alternatives have been considered and if the Minister can be assured that the survival or recovery of the species will not be jeopardized.

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

If a wildlife species is added to the SARA List as an Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened species, the competent Minister must prepare a strategy for its recovery.  Recovery Strategies must be completed and made available on the SARA Public Registry, for public review, within one year for newly listed Endangered species and within two years for Threatened and Extirpated species. The Recovery Strategy addresses known threats to the species, identifies critical habitat to the extent possible and gaps in knowledge. It also sets a recovery goal. The Recovery Strategy is followed up with one or more Action Plans that identify ways to reduce threats to the species and protect its critical habitat, as well as other measures to be taken to implement the Recovery Strategy.

The Recovery Strategy and Actions Plans are prepared in cooperation and consultation with Wildlife Management Boards, Aboriginal communities that are directly affected by the Recovery Strategy, and jurisdictions such as provincial or territorial governments who are responsible for the management of the species. Landowners and others who are directly affected will also be consulted. Upon completion, the recovery strategy is posted on the SARA Public Registry and the public has 60 days to inform the Minister of their views.

Management plans for Species of Special Concern

If a wildlife species is listed as a species of Special Concern, the responsible Minister must prepare a Management Plan. It must be posted on the SARA Public Registry within three years of the species being added to the SARA List. The Management Plan identifies conservation measures aimed at protecting the species and its habitat. A

Management Plan is prepared in cooperation with groups directly affected by the plans, including Wildlife Management Boards and Aboriginal organizations. To the extent possible, landowners, land users and others who may be directly affected by the plans will also be consulted. Upon completion, the Management Plan is posted on the SARA Public Registry and the public has 60 days to inform the Minister of their views.


Why are we having these consultations?

Before the Minister of the Environment makes a recommendation to GIC about whether to add a species to the SARA List, he or she will consider the balance between the social and economic benefits and costs associated with adding the species to the SARA List and the potential consequences for the species and Canadians of not adding it. The Government will meet with wildlife management boards, Aboriginal groups or organizations and other members of the public who have either a direct interest in the species under consideration or wish to comment on the issue. This includes – but is not limited to – landowners, land users, non-government environmental organizations, industries and industry groups. This consultation workbook is another way in which you can let us know what you think.

Comments received from Canadians will be carefully reviewed, evaluated and documented in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS). The RIAS is an important part of the federal government’s regulatory process. In addition, a draft Order (an instrument that serves notice of a decision taken by the executive arm of government) proposing to add the species to the SARA List is prepared. This draft Order along with the RIAS will be published in the Canada Gazette Part I for a period of time to allow Canadians another opportunity to comment. The Minister of the Environment will take into consideration all received comments before recommending to the GIC whether to add the species to the SARA List or not. The GIC’s decision will be published in the Canada Gazette Part II and made available on the SARA Public Registry.

Invitation to submit comments

Consultations concerning adding species to the SARA List are part of the Government’s commitment to encourage public participation in programs designed to protect Canadian plants and animals and their habitat. The Fawnsfoot has been recently assessed and designated by COSEWIC and is being considered for addition to the SARA List. We welcome your comments about whether the Fawnsfoot should be added to the SARA List.

A questionnaire has been provided near the end of this workbook. Please fill it out and mail or fax your answers to one of the following DFO offices:

Central and Arctic Region

SARA Coordinator

Freshwater Institute

Fisheries & Oceans Canada

501 University Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba

R3T 2N6

Email: fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Fax: 204-983-5192

Toll-free: 1-866-538-1609

The deadline for submission of comments is March 31, 2009.


The SARA Public Registry, available on the Internet, is a complete source of information on topics covered by the Act and offers access to public records concerning the administration of SARA. It is a key instrument that allows the government to respect its commitment to support public contribution in the environmental decision-making process. The Public Registry can be found at the following address:


[1]Governor in Council is the Governor General of Canada acting on the advice of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (i.e. Cabinet).

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Last examined by COSEWIC: April 2008


The Fawnsfoot is a small freshwater mussel with a typical adult length of approximately 35 mm. The shell is oval to triangular in shape, smooth and moderately thick and yellow to greenish with numerous dark green rays often broken into v-shaped or chevron markings. The prominent posterior ridge is rounded and flattened dorsally. The beaks are full, central and slightly elevated above the hinge line. The beaks are marked with 3-8 fine bars.

The Fawnsfoot is a long-term brooder. Adults spawn in spring and females brood the young from egg to larval stage in their gills over the winter months. In spring the mature larvae are released into the water and when they encounter a suitable fish host will attach themselves onto the gills of the fish. The larvae then are encased in the gills and proceed to undergo a period of development into juveniles. Juveniles eventually drop off the fish host and grow to adulthood in habitats that are sheltered, with slow-moving water, and fine sand and mud bottom. Adults and juveniles have similar diets which consist of organic debris, algae and bacteria gathered from the water column and/or sediments.

Where are they found?

The Fawnsfoot is found only in the Great Lakes drainages of southern Ontario. Currently, its range is restricted to the lower Thames River and to single sites in the St. Clair delta, Muskrat Creek (Saugeen River drainage), lower Sydenham River and lower Grand River. In two of these sites, only a single individual has been found.

How many mussels are there?

The Fawnsfoot has always been a small component of the overall mussel community (< 5%). Of the five existing populations, two are represented by single specimens (St. Clair delta and Muskrat Creek) while another two represent (Sydenham River and lower Grand River) multiple individuals but from only a single site. Only the Thames River occurrence represents multiple animals collected at more than one site. Populations in the Sydenham and Grand rivers still occupy the known historical range. No assessment can be made of the Muskrat Creek and Thames River populations as no historical information exists.

Threats to the population

The establishment of invasive zebra mussels is the most important factor contributing to the decline of the Fawnsfoot. Available habitat is further limited by the fragmented distribution of the fish host and declining water quality due to increased turbidity, chemical contaminants and nutrient loading resulting from upstream non-point agricultural sources and urban influences.

COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

This freshwater mussel is widely distributed in central North America, with the northern portion of its range extending into the Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and lower Lake Huron drainages of south western Ontario. It appears to have always been a rare species in Canada, representing < 5% of the freshwater mussel community in terms of abundance wherever it occurs. Approximately 86% of historical records are in waters that are now infested with zebra mussels and therefore uninhabitable. Zebra mussels, which were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes, attach to the shells of native freshwater mussels, causing them to suffocate or die from lack of food. The species has declined dramatically and has been lost from four historical locations resulting in a 51% reduction in its range. It is now found in only five widely separated locations, two of which represent single specimens. In two locations, the species’ distribution may be limited by the presence of dams that restrict the movements of the freshwater drum, the presumed fish host of the juvenile mussels. Poor water quality resulting from rural and urban influences poses an additional continuing threat.

What will happen if this mussel is added to the SARA List?

A recovery strategy must be prepared within one year of the Fawnsfoot being added to the SARA List.


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By answering the following questions you will help the federal government understand the benefits and impacts of adding the Fawnsfootto the SARA List.

Please fill out the questionnaire that follows and send us your answers by mail or fax to one of the following DFO offices:

Central and Arctic Region

SARA Coordinator

Freshwater Institute

Fisheries & Oceans Canada

501 University Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba

R3T 2N6  

Email: fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Fax: 204-983-5192

Toll-free: 1-866-538-1609

The deadline for receiving comments is March 31, 2009.

For questions or comments concerning the Species at Risk Act or concerning this consultation process, please write to us at the address given above or call us at (204) 984-0599.


Species of interest:  Fawnsfoot

Your name (optional):

Your Organization/Community/First Nation affiliation (Optional):

1 a)  Are you in favour of the Government of Canada adding the Fawnsfoot to the SARA List?

£ Yes ­­                £     No      £      Undecided

b) If ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, please let us know why

c) If ‘Undecided’, please tell us why

2. Why is listing or not listing Fawnsfootimportant to you? 

Please choose an option that best reflects your level of agreement or disagreement with the following statements.

 Strongly disagreeSomewhat disagreeNeither agree nor disagreeSomewhat agreeStrongly agreeI have no opinion
Has social and/or cultural significance (e.g. traditional purposes) to my community      
Is an important part of the Aboriginal or Canadian heritage      
Is or was an important subsistence food source      
Has economic value (e.g. recreational or commercial fishery)       
Provides job opportunities (e.g. tourism) to the local economy      
Plays an important role in maintaining a healthy freshwater ecosystem      
Will be valuable to future generations      
Many people in Canada value it even though they may never personally see one      
Other (please specify):      

3. Do you have additional reasons why you support the legal listing of Fawnsfoot?


4. If you do not support legal listing of Fawnsfoot, please tell us why.

5. If adding Fawnsfoot to the SARA List will have a negative effect on you or your activities, please let us know how you could change your activities to reduce the impact?


6.   Please add any other comments or concerns (include additional sheets, if necessary) you would like to be considered.

The following questions are optional:

7. Did this consultation workbook help you:

a) Understand how the listing process under the SARA works?

£   Yes ­­                £         No    £      Undecided

b) Understand the important issues concerning Fawnsfoot ?

£   Yes ­­                £         No    £      Undecided

c) Provide an effective way to communicate your views on the potential listing Fawnsfootto DFO?

£   Yes ­­                £         No    £      Undecided

d) What changes or additions can we make to this workbook to make it more easily understood and user friendly?

8. We would like to get an idea of how well you understand the Species At Risk Act (SARA). Please tell us how familiar you are with SARA:

_____ Not at all

_____ Very little

_____ Average

_____ Quite well

_____ Expert

9. Which sector(s) do you represent? Check all that apply.

___ General public

___ Aboriginal organization

___ Aboriginal community

___ Academic community

___ Agriculture

___ Commercial Fishing/Processing/Sales

___ Environmental organization

___ First Nation

___ Farming

___ Forestry

___ Government (please state level) __________________

___ Hydroelectric power generation

___ Industry or manufacturing

___ Oil and gas

___ Private sector – other (please indicate) __________________

___ Professional services

___ Stewardship group


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