Order Giving Notice of Decisions not to add Certain Species to the List of Endangered Species - Vol. 140, No. 18

Vol. 140, No. 18 — September 6, 2006

Registration
SI/2006-110 September 6, 2006

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

Order Giving Notice of Decisions not to add Certain Species to the List of Endangered Species

P.C. 2006-769 August 15, 2006

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsections 27(1.1) and (1.2) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote a) (the Act), hereby

(a) decides not to add the five populations of the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) (Ungava Bay, Cumberland Sound, Eastern Hudson Bay, Eastern High Arctic/Baffin Bay and Western Hudson Bay), the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), and the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River populations of the white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List) set out in Schedule 1 to the Act;

(b) refers the assessment for the Verna's flower moth (Schinia verna) back to the COSEWIC for further information and consideration; and

(c) approves that the Minister of the Environment include a statement in the public registry established under section 120 of the Act

(i) in the form attached as Annex 1 to this Order setting out the reasons for deciding not to add the five populations of the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) (Ungava Bay, Cumberland Sound, Eastern Hudson Bay, Eastern High Arctic/Baffin Bay and Western Hudson Bay), the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), and the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River populations of the white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) to the List, and

(ii) in the form attached as Annex 2 to this Order setting out the reasons for referring the assessment for Verna's flower moth (Schinia verna) back to COSEWIC for further information and consideration.

ANNEX 1

STATEMENT SETTING OUT THE REASONS FOR NOT ADDING FIVE POPULATIONS OF THE BELUGA WHALE, PORBEAGLE SHARK, AND TWO POPULATIONS OF THE WHITE STURGEON TO THE LIST

Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas) (Cumberland Sound Population, Eastern High Arctic/Baffin Bay Population, Eastern Hudson Bay Population, Ungava Bay Population, Western Hudson Bay Population)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended that five populations of the Beluga Whale not be listed.

The beluga whale is a medium sized toothed whale which turns completely white when it reaches sexual maturity. Beluga whales are characterized by having stout bodies, well defined necks and a disproportionately small head. They have thick skins, short but broad paddle shaped flippers, sharp teeth, and, unlike other whales, do not have a dorsal fin. Belugas average three to five metres in length and weigh between 500 and 1000 kilograms. Beluga whales live in cold Arctic waters, travelling from habitat to habitat. Its movements are driven by the need for ice free water and sufficient quantities of food. In winter, the beluga whale is found in areas of open water; in summer it frequents shallow bays and estuaries.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) states that available evidence supports dividing the Canadian belugas into seven populations, based on largely disjunct summer distributions and genetic differences. Five of these populations are currently under consideration for listing under the Act, including Cumberland Sound, Eastern High Arctic/Baffin Bay, Eastern Hudson Bay, Ungava Bay, and Western Hudson Bay populations. Historical commercial hunting has been the main cause of the declines in some populations, although belugas are also threatened by natural factors including ice entrapments and predators such as polar bears and killer whales. A variety of other human activities may also put beluga whales at risk, including noise and disturbance resulting from vessel traffic, climate change, contaminants and hydro-electric dams.

The management of beluga whale populations in Canada is regulated by the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act. For those populations that are harvested for subsistence purposes, quotas are set through co-management boards based on scientific data and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. Inuit people harvest some individuals for social, ceremonial/cultural, and subsistence purposes. Harvesting is done in the context of conservation of the species, where hunting will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the populations. In fact, Inuit people have been instrumental in contributing to management plans and recovery strategies for the beluga populations and their ongoing collaboration will be essential for the continued stability and recovery of all the populations.

Not adding these five populations of the beluga whale at this time is necessary in order to further consult with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. While good progress has been made to consult on whether or not to list these beluga populations, further engagement with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board will continue to ensure that the current decision and future listing decisions are made in full consideration of the views of the Inuit people. Any future listing decisions will be consistent with an approach that provides the best opportunity for the continued survival and future recovery of this species.

Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended that Porbeagle Shark not be listed.

The porbeagle is a stout shark that is blue gray on top and white underneath with a white patch on the trailing edge of the first dorsal fin. Adults can attain a size of about 3.2 metres, and have an average life expectancy of 30 to 40 years. Porbeagle sharks occur on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the south Pacific and Indian Oceans. COSEWIC has identified fishing mortality as the main threat to this species. In Canada, porbeagle sharks are currently harvested in a directed fishery, managed under the Canadian Atlantic Pelagic Shark Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, and as bycatch in the Atlantic Canadian large pelagics and groundfish fisheries. They are also harvested by other countries.

In the absence of a provision that allows for the possession and trade of listed species in certain circumstances, listing the porbeagle under the Act would eliminate the directed porbeagle fishery and also prohibit the sale and trade of porbeagle shark that is by-caught in other fisheries. This would result in economic losses for some fishers and associated industries in coastal communities and loss of industry-based sources of information on the species. If listed porbeagle shark cannot be sold, costs (net present value over a twenty-year time frame) to the fishing industry would range from $0.8 million to $1.8 million, with an additional potential loss of $0.7 million in regional spin off effects. Costs associated with population monitoring surveys may be as high as $50,000 per year in the absence of the fishery. Listing of the porbeagle under the Act would result in unreported discard mortality in fisheries where porbeagle is captured incidentally, which would further hinder scientific efforts to monitor and assess its status.

The federal government will continue to manage porbeagle under the authority of the Fisheries Act. A Conservation Strategy that supports the rebuilding of the porbeagle shark population will be developed in 2006 and will explore options to strengthen reporting of catches, minimize bycatch, and limit the directed fishery. While the strategy is in development, catch limits have been reduced to levels that do not jeopardize the long-term recovery of the species.

White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) (Lower Fraser River Population, Middle Fraser River Population)

For the purposes of providing listing recommendations under the Act, white sturgeon is being treated as six separate populations. This approach is consistent with COSEWIC's status assessment report and with the intent of the Wild Salmon Policy as each of the populations is genetically distinct. The Minister of the Environment has recommended that two populations of White Sturgeon not be listed.

The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in Canada, sometimes exceeding six metres in length. Sturgeons consist of several species that historically occurred throughout the temperate northern hemisphere, which have in recent years declined substantially due to various human induced impacts. Spawning populations of the white sturgeon occur only in the Fraser, Columbia, and Sacramento River systems on the Pacific coast of North America. These populations are genetically distinct from each other and each consists of several genetically distinct sub-populations. Six of these subpopulations have a Canadian range: four in the Fraser River system (Lower, Middle, and Upper Fraser populations as well as the Nechako River population) and two in the Columbia River system (Upper Columbia River and Kootenay River populations).

COSEWIC has identified habitat degradation and loss through dams, impoundments, channelization, diking, pollution, illegal fishing and bycatch in fisheries as threats to the species. In addition, COSEWIC has indicated that a developing commercial aquaculture industry may also impose additional genetic, health, and ecological risks to wild white sturgeon populations.

The decisions to not add the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River populations of the white sturgeon to Schedule 1 of the Act are based on the potential negative socio economic impacts a listing decision would have on Aboriginal peoples and the sport fishing industry. As well, the existing catch and release white sturgeon fishery on the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River is a key source of information to monitor and manage the populations. Listing these populations creates the potential for reduced stewardship for conserving and rebuilding white sturgeon populations.

The Lower Fraser River population of white sturgeon is relatively abundant and shows early evidence of recovery, although returns to spawning grounds in 2005 were slightly lower than expected. The Middle Fraser River population of white sturgeon is of naturally low abundance and is constrained by habitat and food availability. The population appears stable but is not expected to increase significantly over the current levels.

The Lower Fraser River population, and to a lesser extent the Middle Fraser River population, of white sturgeon is subject to a catch and release recreational fishery that is managed by the Province of British Columbia. This fishery is a key source of information to both monitor and to manage white sturgeon, and provides a means for governments, the recreational fishing industry and conservation groups to work together to conserve and recover this species. Listing these two populations under the Act could lead to between $2.1 million and $9.3 million in annual losses to the recreational fishery sector. As well, the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River populations of the white sturgeon are harvested as bycatch by First Nations during their food, social, and ceremonial fisheries for salmon. For both populations, there is currently a voluntary release of white sturgeon bycatch by First Nations. However, listing these populations could lead to further restrictions on salmon fishing by First Nations.

Many conservation measures are already in place to protect and conserve the Lower Fraser River and Middle Fraser River populations of the white sturgeon. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will continue to use existing legal, and funding mechanisms, including the Fisheries Act, other government programs, and actions by non-governmental organizations, industry, and Canadians to protect and recover these populations. With the federal government's cooperation, the province of British Columbia has led recovery planning over several years. This work in collaboration with others will complete the plan to guide future management activities, identify rebuilding strategies, and encourage ongoing and complementary stewardship activities.

ANNEX 2

STATEMENT SETTING OUT THE REASONS FOR REFERRING BACK TO COSEWIC THE VERNA'S FLOWER MOTH

Assessments may be referred back to COSEWIC for further information and consideration such as in cases where new information has become available, existing information (Aboriginal traditional knowledge and community knowledge) was not considered, where it is unclear to what species, populations, or individuals a status designation applies, or where there are questions regarding the interpretation of the science used in making the status designation.

The assessment for the Verna's Flower Moth (Schinia verna) is being recommended for return to COSEWIC based on several factors including lack of data on the species distribution, abundance, range, threats and suitable habitat.

Footnote a

S.C. 2002, c. 29