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Species at Risk Act Annual Report for 2013

7 Enforcement

Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency jointly enforce SARA. These federal entities work in partnership with Aboriginal, provincial, territorial and international authorities to protect SARA-listed wildlife species at risk and their critical habitats. More information regarding the applicability of SARA prohibitions (see sections 3.1 and section5.1) can be found on the Species at Risk Public Registry website.

Environment Canada enforces four statutes that protect wildlife: the Species at Risk Act; the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994; the Canada Wildlife Act; and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. To ensure the effective enforcement of these Acts, wildlife officers work in close cooperation with national and international partners. In 2013, Environment Canada had a staff of 90 enforcement officers assigned to enforce these Acts.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s enforcement actions for species at risk are carried out by close to 600 front-line fishery officers who have been trained and designated as enforcement officers under SARA and who incorporate SARA enforcement activities alongside their duties under the Fisheries Act and other federal statutes and regulations.

Parks Canada’s Law Enforcement Program enforces legislation related to Parks Canada’s mandate, including SARA, on all lands and waters that the Agency administers. In 2013, the Agency had 87 park warden positions dedicated to law enforcement activities, including SARA, located in the Agency’s protected heritage areas.

Training Provided to Wildlife Officers on American Ginseng During 2013

Environment Canada provides training to enforcement officers on a regular basis in order to keep them informed about the different Acts and Regulations administrated by the Department, including SARA. The market value of wild American Ginseng has recently increased, making it more vulnerable to poaching. Recognizing the precariousness of viable wild American Ginseng populations in Canada, Environment Canada provided a course in 2013 to a group of federal and provincial wildlife enforcement officers focusing on this plant. The course covered current regulations (federal and provincial), the current status of the species in Canada, and how to recognize the plant and its habitat. The goal was to prepare the agents to carry out patrols and investigations effectively.

Each year, Environment Canada prioritizes its enforcement activities. In 2013, Environment Canada conducted 40 inspections, focused on three priorities:

  • Legal obligations: a legal obligation to investigate exists under section 93 of SARA. It comes into play when receiving a public request that an investigation be carried out concerning an alleged offence involving SARA-listed species, their critical habitat or residence.
  • Commercial activities: these involve commercial/industrial activities that may entail the incidental take of SARA-listed species.
  • The protection of critical habitat on federal lands: critical habitat is the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of species listed under SARA and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.

In 2013, Environment Canada conducted 21 investigations involving critical habitats and regulated species under SARA, such as Piping Plover, Whooping Crane and American Ginseng. More than 3000 hours of proactive patrols were completed. The majority of these investigations closed during 2013. A total of 3 seizures including 2 seizures of American Ginseng and 1 seizure of a Massasauga rattlesnake occurred under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) in regard to these SARA species.

In 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada fishery officers dedicated over 16 000 hours to patrols, inspections, investigations, court cases, public relations and other duties related to enforcing the prohibitions of SARA. Fishery officers initiated over 70 investigations and spent over 3200 hours on investigative work related to species at risk. The Department recorded a total of 23 SARA violations that resulted in fines, seizures, charges and warnings.

In 2013, Parks Canada’s enforcement activities in protected heritage areas included targeted patrols and investigating reported violations in support of SARA-listed species and critical habitat. Park wardens recorded a total of 13 law enforcement occurrences related to the protection of species at risk in protected heritage areas. There were no charges or prosecutions under the prohibitions of SARA during this period.

Conviction for Harassing a Species at Risk: Sentencing Update

In 2012, a recreational boater from Campbell River, British Columbia, was convicted of harassing killer whales under SARA and of disturbing killer whales under the Fisheries Act. This was the first time that an individual has been found guilty of harassing killer whales under SARA.

Under the Species at Risk Act, it is illegal to harass a member of a wildlife species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened, while the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act specifically prohibit any disturbance of whales.

In January 2013, the individual was fined $7,500, and was ordered to write a mea culpa (“I am to blame”) court-approved article for submission to a Campbell River newsletter. The fine was directed to the Environmental Damages Fund and will support local conservation and education activities in Campbell River.

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