Skip booklet index and go to page content

Species at Risk Act – Annual Report for 2014

4 Protection of Individuals and Residences of Listed Species

4.1 Legislative Background

The protection that comes into effect following the addition of a species to Schedule 1 of SARA depends on the type of species (aquatic, terrestrial, migratory bird), its listed status (endangered, threatened, special concern) and its location.

Sections 32 and 33 of SARA make it an offence to:

  • kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened;
  • possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened, or any of its parts or derivatives; or
  • damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a species that is listed as endangered or threatened, or of a species listed as extirpated if a recovery strategy has recommended its reintroduction into the wild in Canada.

These prohibitions apply immediately upon listing to:

  • all aquatic species;
  • all migratory birds protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 wherever they are found in Canada; and
  • all other extirpated, endangered or threatened species on federal lands or on lands that are in a territory and that are under the authority of the Minister of the Environment or the Parks Canada Agency.

Provinces and territories have the primary responsibility to protect other listed species on provincial, territorial and private land. If the Minister of the Environment is of the opinion that provincial, territorial or other federal legislation does not effectively protect the individuals of a species or their residences, the Minister is required, after consultation with the appropriate provincial or territorial minister or the applicable wildlife management board, to recommend to the Governor in Council that an order be made to apply the prohibitions in sections 32 and 33 of SARA.

SARA also contains requirements about the protection of critical habitat for species at risk once it has been identified. Section 6.1 of this report addresses the protection of critical habitat.

4.2 Permits

Sections 73 to 78 of SARA address agreements, permits, licences, orders and other instruments that authorize activities that otherwise would be offences under the Act. The competent minister may enter into an agreement or issue a permit under section 73 of SARA for the following activities:

  • scientific research related to conserving a listed species, conducted by qualified persons;
  • activities that benefit a listed species or enhance its chances of survival in the wild; or
  • activities that incidentally affect a listed species.

Before issuing a permit, the competent minister must be of the opinion that all preconditions listed under subsection 73(3) have been met. This requires applicants to demonstrate that:

  • all reasonable alternatives have been considered;
  • all feasible measures have been taken to minimize the impact of the activity; and
  • the survival or recovery of the species is not jeopardized.

Activities affecting a SARA-listed species may be authorized by a permit or a similar document issued under another Act of Parliament if this permit has the same effect as a permit issued under section 73. Such permits, referred to as “SARA-compliant” permits, can only be issued for the activities listed above and must respect subsections 73(2) to 73(6.1) preconditions.

The Permits Authorizing an Activity Affecting Listed Wildlife Species Regulations outline the information required to be submitted when applying for a permit under section 73 of the Act, impose a 90-day time limit on the government for issuing or refusing to issue permits, and outline the circumstances under which the time limit will be paused or does not apply, such as where an applicant does not submit all necessary information, where additional consultations are required (e.g., with Aboriginal peoples) or where the activity described in the permit application is modified before the permit is issued or refused.

Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued a total of 276 SARA and SARA-compliant permits in 2014 for purposes of research, conservation and monitoring of listed species.

In 2014, Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued 110 SARA permits under section 73 of the Act, covering at least 30 listed aquatic species. The majority of these permits were issued to academic and government researchers, consultants, environmental non-governmental organizations, industry, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists, for conservation research affecting species at risk, including inventory, population monitoring, habitat use and restoration, and conservation genetics. Twenty (20) permits were for activities that may incidentally affect a listed species but where peer-reviewed assessments determined that the level of harm from these activities would not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the listed species.

In addition, Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued 41 SARA-compliant permits under other Acts. Ten (10) were for fishing licences with SARA conditions, one was for a SARA-compliant Fisheries Act authorization, and 30 were for experimental licences with respect to Northern Wolffish, Spotted Wolffish and Leatherback Sea Turtle.

In 2014, Environment Canada issued 33 permits under section 73 of SARA to allow for activities such as the monitoring, inventory or management of 29 species, including reptiles, amphibians, birds, vascular plants, arthropods, molluscs and mammals. Of the 33 permits issued, eight were for scientific research related to the conservation of a species, five were for activities benefiting a species or required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild, 10 were for activities incidentally affecting a species and 10 were for more than one of these three purposes. Environment Canada also issued 73 SARA-compliant permits affecting threatened and endangered migratory bird species under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. Details regarding delivery against service standards are available online.

In 2014, the Parks Canada Agency issued 19 SARA-compliant permits, most of which were issued under the Canada National Parks Act. Of these, 18 permits covering at least 19 listed species were issued to academic and government researchers as well as Parks Canada scientists, for conservation research affecting species at risk, including inventory, population monitoring, habitat use and restoration, and conservation genetics. The remaining permit was issued for activities that may incidentally affect a listed species. The Parks Canada Agency maintains an online research permitting system to enhance services to researchers, and to ensure that the Agency is informed of research being conducted in the protected heritage places network. The system incorporates a mandatory peer-review mechanism that ensures that SARA requirements are considered for every permitted research activity. Explanations for all permits issued under SARA by Environment Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry.