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Species at Risk Act – Annual Report for 2014

6 Recovery Implementation

6.1 Protection of Critical Habitat

SARA requires that all critical habitat identified in a recovery strategy or action plan be protected against destruction. This includes critical habitat located in the exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf of Canada.

In 2014, Environment Canada protected critical habitat for the Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid the in St. Clair National Wildlife Area. Efforts are ongoing to finalize protection measures for critical habitat of other species on federal lands.

In 2014, the Parks Canada Agency protected critical habitat for 13 species in 15 National Park Reserves:

  • American Marten, Newfoundland population (Gros Morne National Park of Canada and Terra Nova National Park of Canada);
  • Blanding’s Turtle, Nova Scotia population (Kejimkujik National Park of Canada);
  • Contorted-pod Evening Primrose (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada);
  • Eastern Ribbonsnake, Atlantic population (Kejimkujik National Park of Canada);
  • Foothill Sedge (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada);
  • Greater Sage-Grouse urophasianus subspecies (Grasslands National Park of Canada);
  • Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada and Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada);
  • Marbled Murrelet (Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve of Canada and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada);
  • Roseate Tern (Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada);
  • Slender Popcornflower (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada);
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Alberta population (Banff National Park of Canada);
  • Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada); and
  • Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Banff National Park of Canada, Jasper National Park of Canada, Glacier National Park of Canada and Mount Revelstoke National Park of Canada).
Blanding's Turtle
A newly-hatched Blanding's turtle
Photo: © Brennan Caverhill

Efforts are ongoing to finalize protection measures for critical habitat of other species on lands administered by Parks Canada.

6.2 Recovery Activities

6.2.1 Competent Departments’ Recovery Activities

In 2014, Environment Canada continued to lead and support numerous activities to support the recovery of species at risk, including research projects, education and awareness, habitat restoration and enhancement initiatives, monitoring, and assessment.

In its seventh year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Mammal Response Program has well-established regional networks that have become more visible to the general public. Departmental personnel and external partner organizations play key roles in marine animal emergency response. In 2014, they carried out 204 responses nationally for species at risk. Responses included freeing whales from fishing gear entanglements, dealing with ice entrapments, refloating live stranded animals and investigating incidents of harassment. Information from response activities help Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitor and evaluate the threat level from these forms of harm. In addition, the program also uses the information collected to find ways to reduce entanglements and vessel collisions. Outreach activities also form an important part of the work done to educate the public with respect to ways to help protect and avoid harming marine animals.

In 2014, the Parks Canada Agency continued to implement recovery activities in and around protected heritage places, including research, restoration activities, and public outreach and education. Several Parks Canada projects are conducted in partnership with non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private citizens and Aboriginal communities.

Case Study: Working with Fishers to Free Leatherback Sea Turtles

In September 2014, a number of reports came in to the Marine Mammal Response Program in the Gulf Region about Leatherback sea turtles entangled in fixed gear lines. In most cases, the Marine Mammal Coordinator contacts fishery officers, who have been specially trained by the Canadian Sea Turtle Network to respond to these types of incidents.

In one case, fishery officers worked with a fisher to free a large turtle that was entangled in lines attached to three lobster traps. Using their expertise, they were able to remove all of the gear without harming the turtle. The animal, which appeared to be in good condition, swam away.

This is a good example of how Fisheries and Oceans Canada works with fishers to respond to animals in distress. This collaboration works in the favour not only of the animal that in most cases is set free, but also for the fisher who as a result does not lose valuable gear.

Case Study: One Step Closer to Restoring Balance and Safe Seabird Habitat in Gwaii Haanas

Parks Canada and the Haida Nation, along with partners Island Conservation and Coastal Conservation, are continuing to play a leadership role in protecting and restoring critical seabird habitat with Canada’s first aerial eradication of invasive rats from an island ecosystem.

The Ancient Murrelet, a species at risk in Canada, is being devastated by invasive rats. Approximately half of the world population of this seabird breeds on remote islands in Haida Gwaii, including in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. The Ancient Murrelet is a culturally significant seabird species to Haida peoples, who used it for sustenance and ceremonial purposes.

In 2009, Parks Canada and the Haida Nation launched a five-year joint effort to eradicate invasive rats from four islands within Gwaii Haanas and restore nesting habitat throughout the national park reserve, an area of global significance for seabirds. In 2011, a ground-based eradication was carried out on the smaller Bischof and Arichika islands. The September 2013 eradication of rats from Murchison and Faraday Islands required an aerial broadcast approach due to the larger size of the islands and the more complicated terrain. In 2014, monitoring activities were carried out and will continue over the coming years to gauge ecological response of seabirds, songbirds and native small mammals.

More information on the Ecosystem restoration in Gwaii Haanas is available online.

Aerial treatment for eradication of rats
Aerial treatment for eradication of rats
Photo: © Chris Gill

6.2.2 Habitat Stewardship Program

The federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk was established in 2000 as part of the National Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk. The program’s goal is to engage Canadians in conservation actions that contribute to the recovery of species at risk. Funded projects focus on four expected results:

  • securing or protecting important habitat for the recovery of species at risk;
  • improving, through restoration/enhancement, or managing important habitat to meet the recovery needs of species at risk;
  • removing or mitigating threats to species at risk or their habitat caused by human activities; or
  • engaging Canadians (landowners, resource users, volunteers) to participate directly in activities that support the recovery of species at risk so that project benefits are sustained over time.

The HSP is co-managed by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency, and administered by Environment Canada on a regional basis. Regional implementation boards include representatives from provincial and territorial governments, and other stakeholders. These boards provide advice on priorities and project selection for their regions. Since its inception, the HSP has contributed over $139 million to 2297 projects, leveraging an additional $325 million in matching funds from project partners.

During the 2013–2014 fiscal year, 115 new projects and 48 previously approved multi-year projects involving 132 funding recipients contributed to the recovery of over 307 SARA-listed species across Canada. A total of $11.9 million in funding was awarded to these projects, and an additional $26.7 million was leveraged from partners, for a total investment of $38.6 million. These contributions provided support to stewardship efforts across Canada that resulted in the securement and protection of 261 647 hectares (ha) of land, including 9 142 ha through legally binding means, such as acquisition or conservation easements. Non-legally binding protection was put in place through the use of voluntary verbal and written stewardship agreements with landowners, which accounts for a total of 252 505 ha, including 210 413 ha through renewed stewardship agreements and 42 092 ha through new stewardship agreements to conserve land. The program also supported the improvement or restoration of 10 956 ha of land and 136 km of shoreline.

6.2.3 Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk

The Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) program helps Aboriginal organizations and communities across Canada build capacity to participate in the conservation and recovery of species at risk. The program also helps to protect and recover critical habitat or habitat important for species at risk on or near First Nations reserves or on land and waters traditionally used by Aboriginal peoples. The program is co-managed by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency, with the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the guidance of national Aboriginal organizations.

Since its inception in 2004, AFSAR has contributed over $25 million to 727 projects, leveraging an additional $16 million in matching funds from project partners. In the 2013–2014 fiscal year, AFSAR provided $3.2 million for 58 new projects and 22 previously approved projects, of which over $1 million targeted aquatic species at risk. These projects leveraged additional funds that exceeded $2.9 million (cash and in‑kind) and involved 66 Aboriginal organizations and communities as recipients. Funded projects benefited 105 SARA-listed species, mostly through increased Aboriginal awareness of species at risk and through the development of strategies, guidelines and practices or the completion of monitoring studies, surveys and inventories.

Case Study: Engaging Aseniwuche Winewak Nation in the Recovery of Woodland Caribou

Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (AWN) currently represents over 500 non-status Aboriginal people in 6 communities located within a 50 km radius of Grande Cache, Alberta. The traditional territory of AWN is situated in the eastern slopes of the Rockies and extends from Grande Prairie in the north to Jasper National Park in the south. For decades, AWN has acted as a champion for local caribou herds and habitat.

Woodland Caribou is an AFSAR regional priority, and the Little Smoky herd is the Boreal population most at risk of extirpation in Canada, as its range overlaps with the most disturbed boreal caribou habitat in the country.

In 2013–2014, AWN received AFSAR funds to support establishing the Caribou Patrol program to contribute to recovery efforts for Woodland Caribou in the Grande Cache and Highway 40 North region of Alberta. The Caribou Patrol crews reduced the potential of vehicle collisions with Woodland Caribou on area roadways by safely moving 18 caribou from roads using a variety of diversion and harassment techniques. AWN also developed an “EduKit” and used it to raise awareness on caribou management with the public, including local Aboriginal communities, industry and area schools.

Lastly, AWN collected data on 21 caribou sightings and 427 physical barriers constructed to deter highway vehicles from gaining access to the caribou habitat zones. It is expected that this data will contribute to a better understanding of population structure, trends and distribution over time in relation to habitat conditions and disturbance, as well as to determine whether physical barriers are effective in reducing vehicle access to caribou habitat.

Boreal caribou
Boreal caribou
Photo: © A. David M. Latham

Case Study: Hunter Training Video Helps Arctic Species at Risk

As part of the newly established Prevention Stream of AFSAR in 2014, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated was awarded $60,000 to develop, produce and distribute a walrus hunter training video. The video is the first AFSAR-funded project in the far north and will be released in the spring of 2015 through television, Web and DVD as part of a suite of training materials in support of the spring subsistence walrus hunt.

Filmed from the perspective of two Inuit hunters, an Elder, and a youth, the video shifts between interviews and footage of an actual Atlantic Walrus hunt in Foxe Basin, Nunavut. Foxe Basin is home to one of the seven stocks of walrus found in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. The Atlantic Walrus is currently under consideration for listing under SARA and is primarily harvested by local Inuit for subsistence purposes.

By artfully bridging generations, the 44-minute instructional video demonstrates to young hunters the harvesting process of catching, skinning and butchering the walrus to reduce losses (walrus that are shot but not retrieved). Currently, loss rates for Atlantic walrus can be as high as 32%. This first-of-its-kind video will record and preserve traditional Inuit hunting practices for future generations and at the same time protect a culturally important species at risk.

Atlantic Walrus
Atlantic Walrus
Photo: J.B. Dunn © Fisheries and Oceans Canada

6.2.4 Interdepartmental Recovery Fund

Established in 2002, the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund (IRF), administered by Environment Canada, supports species at risk projects undertaken by federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations (other than Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency). Funded projects predominantly occur on lands owned or administered by federal organizations and directly relate to the implementation of activities identified in recovery strategies or action plans, or surveys of species at risk.

During the IRF’s first 12 years (from 2002–2003 to 2013–2014), it has invested $19.9 million in 657 projects. In 2013–2014 fiscal year, the IRF supported 23 projects in 6 federal departments and 2 Crown corporations. Collectively, $750,000 in program funding and just under $200,000 from project leads supported recovery efforts for 59 SARA-listed species. In 2013–2014, 84% of program funds supported recovery actions, while 16% supported surveys and a planning project.

6.2.5 Outreach and Education

All Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats, and education and awareness is essential.

In 2014, Environment Canada delivered a range of information in the form of fact sheets, Qs and As, Web content, information sessions, etc. to educate communities and the public about activities that affect species at risk and their habitat. The Department also provided information sessions for Aboriginal and stakeholder communities, as well as signage, area-user brochures and volunteer guardian programs.

Environment Canada also continued to educate Canadians about species at risk through its longstanding partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in delivering the Hinterland Who’s Who wildlife education program, and through developing and publishing species profiles on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada continued working with partners to provide education and outreach activities such as school visits, trade shows, workshops, and industry and community meetings on the threats to aquatic species at risk and how to help protect these species. Some examples include:

  • training on sea turtle dehooking provided by the Canadian Sea Turtle Network in Nova Scotia;
  • sharing important information with the fishing industry on handling situations related to SARA aquatic listed species and fishing gear interactions; and
  • training for fishery officers on marine animal rescue offered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Marine Animal Rescue Society in October 2014 in Shediac, New Brunswick.

During 2014, Fisheries and Oceans Canada held 12 SARA outreach sessions throughout Ontario, six of which were in partnership with provincial agencies and conservation authorities. Particular emphasis was placed on where listed species and critical habitat exist, how critical habitat is defined, and how potential impacts to critical habitat might be mitigated. Over 540 participants took part in these sessions, representing a wide range of stakeholders.

In addition to the outreach sessions, efforts were made in 2014 to provide planning authorities in Ontario with federal aquatic species at risk guidance materials for incorporation within municipal official plans.

2014 marked the conclusion of the three-year campaign “Wanted! North Atlantic Right Whales” that worked to solicit Right Whale sighting information from the public in areas outside their known critical habitat. During the campaign, Fisheries and Oceans Canada worked with the Canadian Sea Turtle Network and the Canadian Whale Institute to distribute posters and pamphlets to over 300 wharves, community bulletin boards, Canadian Coast Guard vessels, ferries, whale watch companies and Fisheries and Oceans Canada area offices in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Additional posters were also inserted into commercial fishing logbooks. The information from this campaign is recorded in the Department’s Maritimes Region Cetacean Sightings Database. The information is also provided to the New England Aquarium and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for their interactive sightings map. The Department is currently compiling a list of the locations from which reports were received; some reports of sightings are from areas where no previous information had been received.

The Parks Canada visitor experience program promotes species at risk protection through implementation of the Parks Canada Prevention Guidelines. The guidelines focus on proactive communication with visitors to highlight the connection between their actions and the effect they can have on the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitat.

At Parks Canada, public outreach activities relating to species at risk occur in national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country. These activities include interpretative programs, field trips, special events and volunteer activities including participating in restoration and monitoring projects (i.e., citizen science). Through these various programs, visitors have the unique opportunity to experience first hand the places that are key to protecting species at risk.

In addition, Parks Canada has a number of outreach programs that focus on reaching youth, families and new Canadians in urban areas in order to increase awareness among these audiences. In 2014, efforts included outreach programs about species at risk at dozens of special events and festivals, and at several partner venues (e.g., zoos and aquariums) in large cities such as Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary. Creating this awareness and initial connection among urbanites helps foster support for species at risk protection and recovery. Parks Canada species at risk stories were also shared through the Parks Canada website, the media and organizations that reach out to children with various programs, articles and websites.

Case Study: BioKit at the Mauricie National Park of Canada

During the summer of 2014, the first digital BioKit developed for a protected area in Canada was launched. The nature BioKit allows young visitors to learn about biodiversity, including endangered species (the timber wolf, wild turtle and butternut) present in the Mauricie National Park of Canada.

For this project, the Mauricie National Park collaborated with CREO, a team of science communicators who develop and distribute innovative, multiplatform science products, on the layout and programming of the interactive BioKit application for iPad, using the concept of BioKits first developed by Environment Canada's Biosphere.

In addition to reading information on the rich biodiversity of the park, one can hear the sounds of animals including bird songs and see photos. This innovative tool also allows the naturalist apprentice to record observations, take pictures or videos of the observed species and even draw.

Following their field visit, users can share and compare notes with their friends and share their diagnosis on the website BioKits. BioKit is a new way to tell and be told about nature.

Young visitors using the Nature BioKit at Mauricie National Park
Young visitors using the Nature BioKit at Mauricie National Park
Photo: © Parks Canada