Canada Adds 73 Animals, Plants to Species at Risk List

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, February 7, 2005 (ENS) - Four whale populations have been listed as endangered in Canada, and another population of whales is now listed as threatened in the first group of animals and plants added to the Species At Risk Act since it became law in 2003.

Both the Atlantic and the Pacific populations of the blue whale - the largest of all whales - were listed in the new group of 73 species along with the North Atlantic right whale and the Pacific population of sei whales. The North Pacific population of humpback whales joined the threatened list.

These additions bring the number of protected species 306. Recovery strategies and action plans must be developed for all of the species listed as threatened or endangered, while management plans are required for species of special concern.

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An endangered blue whale blows off the Oregon coast. While U.S. Pacific blue whale sightings are increasing, sightings in Canadian waters are declining. (Photo by B. Lagergood courtesy NOAA)
"Whatever the cause, losing a species is tragic and irreversible," said Environment Minister Stéphane Dion on January 26, announcing the new listing. "Our hope is to see these 73 species, which include the Pacific pond turtle, the blue whale and the ribbonsnake, recover to a point where they can thrive again. We must protect them, and it’s a responsibility that we and our partners take very seriously."

On the list of species extirpated, or gone from their original range, are the Pacific pond turtle, and the Pacific gophersnake, and the Puget Oregonian snail, as as well as a plant - the incurved grizzled moss.

The decision to add these species to the list is the result of a "thorough, transparent process" said Dion, which took into account scientific assessments, traditional Aboriginal knowledge, public consultations and public comment.

Besides the whale populations, two other mammals that were included on the endangered list for the first time are the Townsend's mole and the Eastern population of wolverines.

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The grey fox is now on the list of threatened species in Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Bear Lake)
Placed on the treatened list for the first time is the grey fox, the Great Basin gophersnake, and the Eastern Atlantic population of ribbonsnake.

Listed as a "species of special concern" is the Northern mountain population of woodland caribou, a bird known as the longbilled curlew, and the brilliant blue cerulean warbler.

Newly listed as endangered is the Western population of screech-owl the macfarlanei subspecies. The kennicotti subspecies of screech owl was listed as a "species of special concern. These owls join the barn owl on the endangered species list.

Two species of frog, a salamander, and two toad species are now listed as "species of special concern." The Western boreal and prairie populations of Northern leopard frog, and the Great Plains and Western toad populations join the newly listed spring salamander on the list.

The polar bear, the Northwestern population of grizzly bear and the Western population of wolverine will not be added to the list at this time, in order to provide an opportunity for Environment Canada to consult further with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on concerns that they have raised. These consultations will be undertaken on an urgent basis and are expected to be concluded by the end of May.

Cultus Lake and Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon also will not be added to the list, in keeping with Dion's advice after consultation with the Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan.

Still, comprehensive recovery plans for these species will be completed and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to pursue its action plan to protect and rebuild the Cultus and Sakinaw Lake sockeye populations.

Environmentalists were not satisfied with the decision to withhold protection for wild salmon. The federal government's decision not to protect wild pink salmon by closing down fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago on the central coast of British Columbia led the Wilderness Committee and dozens of supporters to deliver a giant pink slip to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in downtown Vancouver on January 27.

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Salmon pens at an aquaculture operation in British Columbia (Photo courtesy B.C. Salmon Farmers)
The 27 fish farm tenures in the Broughton Archipelago have been a source of controversy since scientists noticed a correlation between high wild pink salmon mortality rates and sea-lice infestations in the farms. In 2001 scientists believe that an outbreak of sea lice in the Broughton fish farms decimated 8 wild pink salmon runs in the region. In 2002 pink salmon returning to spawn in the Archipelago decreased from 3.615 million fish to just 147,000.

"The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be protecting our wild salmon. Instead they have joined hands with corporate interests and have watched as wild pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago have been decimated by sea-lice from industrial fish farms. We delivered a pink slip to them today effective immediately," said Gwen Barlee.

To help protect the wild pink salmon smolts in the Broughton Archipelago from sea lice when they migrate past fish farms to the ocean in mid-April, all farmed fish would need to be removed from their open-net cages by the end of February. There are now 17 fish farms stocked with fish operating in the Broughton Archipelago, many of them located on wild salmon migration corridors.

In the Eastern region, the rapid spread of urban areas has caused many species be driven from their native habitat. "Reining in sprawl is the best way to protect natural habitats and to protect species at risk in the Golden Horseshoe," said Gregor Beck, a biologist and acting executive director of Ontario Nature.

"Habitat loss is the biggest contributor to the increasing number of species at risk in the province, and the Greenbelt can help put a stop to this trend," said Beck. "A large and permanent Greenbelt will benefit nature and communities and protect agricultural lands."

Protection of green space is the solution, says a group of more than 75 scientists and environmental professionals, who Friday released a declaration in support of a strong Greenbelt for southern Ontario. Signatories include biologists, ecologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, doctors, geographers and planners.

The declaration was released Friday by Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature. The Standing Committee on General Government is holding public hearings this week into Bill 135, the Greenbelt Act 2004 .

As of June 2004, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of species listed as threatened, endangered or extirpated, and the destruction of their residences.

The SARA approach is to encourage species protection through voluntary actions and supported stewardship activities. But the law also creates offenses and sets penalties for committing these offenses.

A non-profit organization can be fined up to $250,000 for each offense, and an individual can be penalized up to a $250,000 and get a prison term of up to five years for each offense.

To see the list of new species, visit: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/New2_e.cfm