February 7, 2005

Blue whale, wolverine among 73 new species added to SARA protected list

Seventy-three new species are being added to the list of species protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). This is the first group of species added to Schedule 1, the list of species protected under SARA, since the Act was proclaimed in 2003. These additions, recently announced by federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion, bring to 306 the total number of species protected under SARA. Their inclusion in the SARA list means that recovery strategies and action plans must be developed for all of the species listed as endangered or threatened, while management plans are required for species of special concern.

"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," Dion stated.

Endangered species are defined as those facing imminent extirpation (i.e. no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere) or extinction. Among the latest additions in this category are the blue whale (Atlantic and Pacific populations), the wolverine (eastern population) and the western screech owl (macfarlanei subspecies).

Threatened species are defined as those likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed. The north Pacific humpback whale, the grey fox and the Massasauga rattlesnake are among the latest additions to the list in this category.

Species of special concern are defined as those that may become threatened endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. Among those on the list of 73 in this category are the woodland caribou (northern mountain population), the western screech owl (kennicottii subspecies), the milksnake and the ribbonsnake (eastern Great Lakes population)

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

The list of the 73 species being added can be found in the January 26, 2005 edition of the Canada Gazette, Part II and on the SARA Registry Web site, www.sararegistry.gc.ca.

The polar bear, the northwestern grizzly bear population and the western wolverine population 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, deemed urgent, should conclude by the end of May.

Dion further decided against adding Cultus Lake and Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon to the list, following consultation with Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan. Comprehensive recovery plans for these species will be completed, however, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to pursue its action plan to protect and rebuild the Cultus and Sakinaw Lake sockeye populations.

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