May 15, 2006

COSEWIC reviews latest data on species at risk in Canada

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) had some good news to report following its latest meeting in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan. The Committee found that risks to some Canadian species have lessened. Three species were reassessed as not at risk, among them the red-shouldered hawk, a species that has recovered since its previous assessment as special concern.

One type of moth, not been seen in Canada for 70 years, was reported as rediscovered in Ontario on Manitoulin Island. Three other types, however, both dependent on a threatened species of yucca plant native to a small section of southern Alberta, have been assessed as endangered, two of them during this meeting.

Many of the world's large open-ocean sharks have declined due to overharvesting. In the Canadian Atlantic, the white shark was assessed as endangered and the shortfin mako as threatened, with the blue shark listed as being of special concern.

The Committee assessed two Arctic species, ranking the snow-white ivory gull, whose numbers have declined drastically in Canada, as endangered. The Atlantic Walrus, now at very low numbers in some areas and in need of improved management, was added to species of special concern.

The American eel breeds in the Sargasso Sea, its young then moving into rivers and streams along the Atlantic coast of North America. The Committee noted a decline in this species' numbers in Lake Ontario, the upper St Lawrence River, and some other rivers and streams in Atlantic Canada.

The golden-winged warbler, a bird whose populations throughout North America have dwindled as a result of habitat loss and competition with a related species, was assessed as threatened.

During its latest meeting, COSEWIC reviewed 64 scientific reports assessing the risk of biological extinction for a wide variety of organisms, ranging from lichens to whales. In conducting its assessments, the Committee also draws upon Aboriginal traditional and local or community knowledge provided by many experts from governments, academia and other organizations. Species in danger of extinction are assigned status as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern, according to the degree of risk and nature of the threats.

There are now 529 species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 206 endangered, 135 threatened, 153 listed as special concern, and 22 species deemed extirpated (no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 13 are extinct and 41 are data deficient.

The latest assessments, including reasons for the designations, may be viewed on the COSEWIC Web site, www.cosewic.gc.ca. The assessments will be forwarded to the federal Environment Minister in August for consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

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