ARCHIVED — Order Giving Notice of Decisions Not to Add Certain Species to the List of Endangered Species

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Vol. 145, No. 14 — July 6, 2011

Registration

SI/2011-56 July 6, 2011

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

P.C. 2011-729 June 23, 2011

ORDER GIVING NOTICE OF DECISIONS NOT TO ADD CERTAIN SPECIES TO THE LIST OF ENDANGERED SPECIES

List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Decisions Not to Add Certain Species) Order

His 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), hereby

  1. (a) decides not to add the Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis), Canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) and Lake Winnipeg Physa (Physa sp) to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk set out in Schedule 1 to that Act; and
  2. (b) approves that the Minister of the Environment include in the public registry established under section 120 of that Act the statement that is attached as the annex to this Order and that sets out the reasons for the decisions not to add those species to that List.

ANNEX

STATEMENT SETTING OUT THE REASONS FOR THE DECISIONS NOT TO ADD THE BOCACCIO, CANARY ROCKFISH AND LAKE WINNIPEG PHYSA TO THE LIST OF WILDLIFE SPECIES AT RISK

1. Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that the Bocaccio not be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List) set out in Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The Bocaccio is a rockfish species that ranges from southeast Alaska to northern Oregon. It was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as a threatened species in 2002 based on population declines. The Bocaccio, while not being targeted by any fishery, is captured as non-directed catch in commercial, recreational and First Nations fisheries. COSEWIC identified fishing as the primary threat to the species even though it is not a target species, since it cannot adjust to rapid changes in pressure, causing all individuals brought to the surface to die. The Puget Sound/Georgia Basin population of Bocaccio is listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act (April, 2010), although the US population may be increasing since catch levels were reduced. The current status of the Bocaccio population in Canada is within the critical zone according to the reference points established under the precautionary approach of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

The prohibitions under section 32 of SARA, which come into effect after listing a species as threatened or endangered, require that any activity that would result in killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking an individual of the listed species be stopped immediately. This would include any fishing and subsequent buying or selling of the listed species, if Bocaccio is caught as bycatch while listed as threatened or endangered. The negative socio-economic impacts of adding the Bocaccio to the List would be significant. A 45% reduction in the harvest of the target species would be required in order to reduce the incidental catch of Bocaccio to 50 metric tons (t), which would facilitate the population recovery of this species. Reducing the harvest to 50 t would result in considerable costs, with annual profit losses to the commercial harvest sector in the range of $27.5M. This would, in turn, have a distributional impact on income, jobs and GDP. A reduction of 45% in the harvest would affect 700 jobs in the fishery and result in a $40.5M loss in GDP and $24.5M loss in household income, all in the first year.

Therefore, DFO will continue to manage this species under the Fisheries Act. Industry will still bear the costs of harvest reductions, but the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will have the discretion to undertake alternative short-term mitigation measures — such as reduced total allowable catch (TAC), 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring, full catch accountability and monitoring for relative abundance to ensure that total non-directed catch does not increase — that will allow groundfish fisheries to continue in exceptional circumstances. This will avoid early in-season closures of the groundfish fishery, although the frequency with which such closures might be required is not clear. Using the Fisheries Act in the management of this species allows for significant variability in biomass, industry engagement and co-management, integrated management plans and the ability to manage Bocaccio within an integrated broader strategy for all Pacific rockfish. Accordingly, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has advised the Minister of the Environment not to recommend adding the Bocaccio to the List.

In response to conservation and management concerns with respect to groundfish resources on the Pacific coast, DFO initiated discussions with commercial and other groundfish harvesters. The result has been a three-year pilot program, initiated in 2006, to integrate the management of seven separately licensed commercial fishing fleets that target different individual groundfish species or groups of species. Key elements of integration include

  1. (a) an inter-fleet trading system for individual species allocations to enable the different fishing fleets to pursue their fisheries while avoiding the need to discard non-directed by-catch; and
  1. (b) a comprehensive and consistent catch monitoring system for all fleets intended to account for all catches (both landed and released at sea).

More specifically, in response to the 2002 COSEWIC assessment, DFO has sought to reduce non-directed catch of Bocaccio. As a result, the fishing industry progressively shifted from targeting Bocaccio to incidentally capturing it while going after a main fishery and is also now actively trying to avoid the incidental catch of Bocaccio. A voluntary relinquishment program for Bocaccio was introduced to prevent further population decline and improve prospects for a recovery of the population. The commercial groundfish industry has been successful in achieving voluntary harvest reductions through adaptive modifications of fishing practices in order to avoid areas where densities of Bocaccio are found to be high. Efforts towards further reductions are underway. Harvest has been reduced to 150 t or lower (120 t in 2006/07; 150 t in 2007/08; 121 t in 2008/09), from the earlier level of 200 t to 300 t.

By permanently adopting the Commercial Groundfish Integration Pilot Program, DFO will continue to monitor the catch of Bocaccio by the commercial groundfish sector to ensure catches do not increase. If the non-directed catch of Bocaccio is found to have increased to harvest levels deemed unsustainable under the Precautionary Policy, new management measures, such as setting a TAC and Individual Vessel Quotas (IVQ) for Bocaccio non-directed catch will be implemented and will be focused on the groundfish trawl sector, which accounts for 90% of the total non-directed catch of the species.

Initiatives to reduce harvest and improve information include active avoidance of this species by harvesters, readily informing other harvesters of the presence of Bocaccio and giving up voluntarily the proceeds of the incidental Bocaccio catch in the trawl fishery to a research society. In addition, multi-species surveys have been introduced to monitor relative abundance, to ensure that 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring of all catch is in force, to ensure 100% retention of rockfish, to monitor individual quotas and transferability of quotas between all commercial ground fish licences, and to require full catch accountability by all commercial ground fish harvesters.

As well, improved catch monitoring will be established to better estimate the level of mortality of Bocaccio in the recreational and First Nations fisheries to ensure that non-directed catch levels do not increase. In particular, a review of the recreational groundfish creel program will be conducted to estimate the recreational catch for the upcoming year. This review will be used to inform recommendations for an improved catch monitoring program for the recreational sector. In addition, DFO is working co-operatively with First Nations to develop new tools for reporting catch information from food, social and ceremonial fisheries. Current harvest from these sectors is not considered to impact recovery of the species.

New actions to further address the threat to Bocaccio take account of the permanency of the Commercial Groundfish Integration Pilot Program, which includes

  1. (a) 100% at-sea monitoring of all catch;
  2. (b) 100% dockside monitoring of all catch;
  3. (c) 100% retention of rockfish;
  4. (d) individual quotas;
  5. (e) transferability of quotas between all commercial groundfish licences; and
  6. (f) individual catch accountability (under which harvesters must acquire a quota for all catch for species with a TAC and quotas).

The outcome of these new measures is expected to allow for the improved catch monitoring for all groundfish species, whether through directed or non-directed fisheries. This improved catch monitoring will allow DFO to accurately monitor harvest of all groundfish species to ensure that they remain within sustainable levels.

In addition, catch monitoring of Bocaccio by the commercial groundfish sector will be closely examined at the end of each fishing season to ensure that catches do not increase. More frequent updates to the current stock assessment will better assess the health of the stock in a timely manner to allow for appropriate management actions. An updated stock assessment will be carried out every four years.

Improved catch monitoring will be established to better estimate the levels of mortality of Bocaccio in First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries and to ensure that catches do not increase. If catches increase, additional management measures will be invoked.

2. Canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that the Canary rockfish not be added to the List.

COSEWIC assessed Canary rockfish as a threatened species in November 2007 due to population decline. Canary rockfish range from the Gulf of Alaska to northern Baja California. The Puget Sound/Georgia Basin population of Canary rockfish is listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act (April 2010), although the US population has been increasing since fishing efforts were reduced in 1999.

COSEWIC identified fishing as the primary threat to this species. Canary rockfish are targeted by commercial trawl and hook and line fisheries. The Canary rockfish is one of many rockfish species managed through the Commercial Groundfish Integration Pilot Program. A small amount of catch, often non-directed, is taken in the First Nations fisheries, recreational fisheries and commercial salmon troll fisheries.

In response to the 2007 COSEWIC assessment, reductions to the catch limits for Canary rockfish were put into place in the commercial and recreational fisheries. A recent stock assessment by DFO notes an increase in overall abundance that indicates this population may recover at current levels of fish mortality. The recent upturn in abundance, however, is highly uncertain and may not be sustained.

The socio-economic costs of adding Canary rockfish to the List would be significant. Current stock assessments suggest that further harvest restrictions are not necessary to recover the species. Listing the species as threatened on the List would trigger prohibitions under sections 32 and 33 of SARA, which would require that any activity that would result in killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking an individual of the listed species be stopped immediately. This would include any fishing activity, if the Canary rockfish is caught as bycatch while listed as threatened or endangered.

Live release is not an option since Canary rockfish are killed by the rapid changes in pressure experienced when this deep water species is brought to the surface. In calculating the costs of listing this species, it was assumed that recovery efforts associated with ensuring that the fishery operates in a sustainable manner will occur regardless of the listing decision. Costs therefore only reflect incremental costs from a SARA listing, which is the loss in profits from the Canary rockfish harvest, given that the full monetary value of the Canary rockfish fishery would be lost. If listed, the full value of profits from the Canary rockfish fishery, approximately $11.8M over 40 years ($1M annualized), would be lost, with the majority of the profit losses ($0.9M annualized) borne by the commercial harvesters.

Therefore, DFO will continue to manage this species under the Fisheries Act by permanently adopting the Commercial Groundfish Integration Pilot Program, and ensure adequate catch monitoring is in place. This will allow fisheries management activities to respond to any increases in harvesting via implementation of a TAC and individual quotas for the groundfish trawl fishery. In addition, the TAC can be reduced if new scientific information suggests that current harvest is inconsistent with the Precautionary Approach policy.

In direct response to COSEWIC’s 2007 assessment, Canary rockfish catch limits for commercial harvesters and recreational fishers were reduced. Initiatives to reduce harvest in the commercial sector and improve information included multi-species surveys to monitor relative abundance, 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring of all catch and full catch accountability by all commercial groundfish harvesters. These initiatives will continue to be implemented along with 100% retention of rockfish and implementation of reduced individual quotas and transferability of quotas between all commercial groundfish licences.

Instead of listing the species on the List, Canary rockfish will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act. The management objective for this species is to keep the population in the healthy zone. The term “healthy zone” is related to the Precautionary Approach framework and represents the population level where the stock would have no major conservation concerns from a fisheries management perspective. If the population moves out of the healthy zone, a reduction in the commercial Canary rockfish TAC will be implemented. DFO will improve its by-catch monitoring activities in the salmon troll fishery, recreational fishery and First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries to better estimate the level of mortality of Canary rockfish in these fisheries and ensure that these by-catches do not increase. As well, DFO will include groundfish trawl discards into catch quotas to better estimate the total level of mortality of Canary rockfish by the groundfish trawl fishery. This will be included to ensure that harvest remains within the prescribed TAC.

Additional new measures to further address threats will be achieved through the Commercial Groundfish Integration Pilot Program. This will allow for improved catch monitoring for all harvested groundfish species so that DFO can ensure that they remain within sustainable levels.

To better assess the health of the stock in a timely manner to allow for appropriate management actions, more frequent updates to the current stock assessment will be carried out every four years.

If updated stock assessments reveal that the stock has moved out of the healthy zone, reductions in the commercial Canary rockfish TAC will be implemented consistent with the advice from the assessment.

Finally, improved catch monitoring will be established to better estimate the level of mortality of Canary rockfish in First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries and to ensure that catches do not increase.

3. Lake Winnipeg Physa (Physa sp)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that the Lake Winnipeg Physa not be added to the List.

In 2002, COSEWIC assessed the Lake Winnipeg physa, an aquatic snail, as an endangered species. The assessment was returned to COSEWIC in order to clarify taxonomic validity. In December 2006 COSEWIC reaffirmed the assessment of endangered, citing an absence of any new information that would lead to a change in the assessment. Individuals of the species are confined to Lake Winnipeg, where there appear to be declines in the population and area of occupancy owing to habitat loss, human disturbance and habitat degradation. Evidence also suggests that nutrients and contaminants from sewage lagoons, industrial activities, waste storage facilities or landfills are also contributing to the declines.

In March 2009, DFO held a regional science advisory meeting with various experts, including those from outside DFO, to assess whether the Lake Winnipeg Physa was a distinct taxonomic unit. Following extensive consideration and analysis, DFO has concluded that this animal is not a distinct physa species and is therefore ineligible to be added to the List . The meeting proceedings (CSAS 2009/004) indicated that there was insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the Lake Winnipeg Physa was a distinct taxonomic unit. Most participants agreed that the Lake Winnipeg Physa was a local variety of a species of snail common to Lake Winnipeg and not considered to be at risk. Considering this lack of clarity concerning the taxonomy of the animal, it is premature to contemplate adding it to the List . Protecting areas where the Lake Winnipeg Physa is present (prohibiting or limiting development under sections 32 and 33 of SARA) could impact development proposals of the shoreline (including residential cottage use), and agricultural, forestry and hydroelectric industries, as well as municipalities and other effluent producing activities. However, causal links to mortality must be established before costs can be accurately estimated.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

(This note is not part of the Order.)

On September 30, 2010, the Governor in Council acknowledged receipt of assessments for 12 aquatic species that had been completed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Receipt of these assessments initiated the nine-month timeline set out in subsection 27(1.1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) within which the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, accept the assessments and add these species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (set out in Schedule 1 to SARA) [the List], decide not to add these species to the List or refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. The Governor in Council is required to render a final decision regarding the listing of these species by June 30, 2011.

On December 18, 2010, an order proposing to add six species to the List and to reclassify three species on the List was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, providing for a 30-day period for interested persons to submit comments. The accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement indicated that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had advised the Minister of the Environment to recommend to the Governor in Council not to add three other aquatic species to the List. A total of two comments were received in favour of the listing and reclassification recommendations mentioned in the Order, with the exception of the White Shark.

The Order constitutes the decision of the Governor in Council not to add the Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis), Canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) and Lake Winnipeg Physa (Physa sp) to the List. This decision is based on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, taking into account the assessments provided by COSEWIC. The decision not to list these species has been made after weighing the costs of listing against the anticipated benefits. It has been determined that the costs of protection under SARA would likely outweigh the benefits to Canadians. Protective measures will be taken under existing legislative tools such as the Fisheries Act, as well as non-legislative tools such as government programs and actions by non-governmental organizations, industry and Canadians, which may provide protection to species that are not listed.

The Governor in Council also approves that the Minister of the Environment, in accordance with subsection 27(1.2) of SARA, include a statement in the public registry setting out the reasons for the decision not to list these species. Those reasons are set out in the Annex to the Order and will be posted on the public registry established under SARA (www.sararegistry.gc.ca).

Footnote a
S.C. 2002, c. 29