Vol. 151, No. 9 -- May 3, 2017

Registration

SI/2017-24 May 3, 2017

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

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

P.C. 2017-398 April 13, 2017

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)

  1. decides not to add the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) or the Yellowmouth Rockfish (Sebastes reedi) to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk set out in Schedule 1 to that Act; and
  2. 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.

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

ANNEX

Statement Setting Out the Reasons for the Decisions Not To Add the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and the Yellowmouth Rockfish to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 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”).

Adding the species to the List would result in significant and immediate socio-economic impacts on industry due to the application of the general prohibitions. If it is not listed under SARA, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (“ABT”) will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act.

Listing the ABT as endangered under SARA and the subsequent closure of the directed and by-catch fisheries, including commercial harvesting, charter boat and Aboriginal commercial-communal fisheries, would result in significant socio-economic impacts on industry and communities in the region, including Aboriginal communities. The non-listing option received support from most of those who responded during consultations during the information-gathering stage, including the majority of the provinces, Aboriginal organizations and potentially impacted stakeholders.

As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (“ICCAT”) recommends the annual total allowable catch (“TAC”) and allocates it among contracting parties, including Canada, listing the species under SARA would not be expected to have a significant positive impact on the species, since the closure of the Canadian fishery could result in ICCAT reallocating or transferring the Canadian quota to other countries, resulting in no net decrease in fishing mortality for ABT. Furthermore, some of the other contracting parties to ICCAT do not have the comprehensive tagging and dockside monitoring requirements that the Canadian fishery has and, therefore, reallocated quota may not be as tightly monitored. Additionally, the Canadian fishery provides key indexes of abundance for the assessment of the stock, which would be lost if the fishery were discontinued.

Since the publication of the assessment and status report of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (“COSEWIC”) in 2011, the ABT population has been re-evaluated by ICCAT and a full stock assessment was undertaken in 2014. Based on this most recent assessment, ICCAT noted that the western stock has been increasing in recent years, and the biomass is projected to continue to increase under current catches (2015 global TAC: 2 000 t).

If the species is not listed under SARA, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue to manage, under the Fisheries Act, the recommended annual TAC allocated by ICCAT. It will implement a set of management measures to address the needs of the species, in particular through prioritizing the drafting of an updated Integrated Fisheries Management Plan that is consistent, to the extent possible, with the national Sustainable Fisheries Framework (“SFF”); will undertake a risk assessment of current catch monitoring for each of the existing fleets that harvest ABT; will review at-sea observer coverage levels in the fleets that interact with ABT and will review existing monitoring documents to identify necessary amendments or additions to improve data collection in both the directed and incidental-catch fisheries. This may lead to more accurate post-release mortality estimates and additional ecological benefits due to increased knowledge of the species and its interaction with the ecosystem.

Yellowmouth Rockfish (Sebastes reedi)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that the Yellowmouth Rockfish not be added to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA

Adding the species to the List would result in significant and immediate negative socio-economic impacts on industry due to the triggering of the general prohibitions and the incremental benefits would likely be small.

If it is not listed under SARA, the Yellowmouth Rockfish will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act as part of the integrated groundfish fishery. Current management measures in this fishery include the establishment of individual transferable quotas and TAC provisions guided by scientific advice and the SFF, mandatory 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring, and accountability for all rockfish catches (released and retained).

Since the implementation of the Commercial Groundfish Integration Program in 2006, all reported rockfish catches have remained within the prescribed TAC and conservation objectives for rockfish have been met. Additional management measures will be implemented to enhance existing mechanisms, including more frequent updates to stock assessments to enable timely implementation of management measures under the Fisheries Act. As the current harvest is 1% of the current biomass and the Yellowmouth Rockfish is considered to be in the healthy zone of the SFF, no changes to the TAC are proposed at this time. If the population falls below the healthy zone, the TAC will be adjusted based on updated scientific information. These management measures can achieve the conservation outcomes associated with the species.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

(This note is not part of the Order.)

On August 5, 2016, the Governor in Council (see footnote 1) (GIC) acknowledged receipt of assessments for 15 species that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (see footnote 2) (COSEWIC) provided to the Minister of the Environment. This initiated a nine-month period under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) during which the GIC is to make decisions on whether or not to add those species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List) set out in Schedule 1 to SARA or to refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

On August 27, 2016, a proposed Order to add nine species to the List, reclassify one species from threatened to endangered on the List, to amend the List by striking out one species previously listed as a single population and adding two new separate populations, and, remove from the List one species that is no longer considered by COSEWIC as eligible for assessment was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. In the accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, it was proposed that Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and Yellowmouth Rockfish not be added to the List.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

The GIC, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, has decided that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT) not be added to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA.

This decision means that the prohibitions and the requirement to prepare a recovery strategy under SARA, including the identification and, later, the protection of critical habitat, will not apply. Alternatively, the species will be managed using other legislative (e.g. Fisheries Act) and non-legislative (e.g. government programs, actions by non-governmental organizations, industry and Canadians) tools.

The ABT is a large, migratory pelagic fish. There are two known populations: the eastern Atlantic population and the western Atlantic population. ABT in the western Atlantic population spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, and adults make annual migrations to Atlantic Canadian waters to feed. In Canadian waters, their range extends from Georges Bank off the coast of Nova Scotia to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They are also found in the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The majority of ABT in Canadian waters are part of the western population; however, transatlantic migration is likely, so there is some overlap between the two populations. Occurrence and abundance in Canadian waters vary over decades, possibly due to changes in water conditions or availability of prey.

In 2011, COSEWIC classified the western Atlantic population of ABT as endangered due to a 69% decline in the number of spawning adults over 2.7 generations and concerns with heavy commercial fishery exploitation over the last 40 years. Fishing is identified as the main threat to the species. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 was also identified as a concern due to potential impacts on the western Atlantic ABT spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. While it is too early to determine whether this oil spill has had a significant negative impact, early research and monitoring has not registered any effect on this population. The COSEWIC assessment and status report included data up to 2009. However, the most recent stock assessment undertaken by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (see footnote 3) (ICCAT), in 2014, noted a more positive outlook for the western ABT stock than the previous assessment, noting that the western stock has been increasing in recent years, and the biomass is projected to continue to increase under current catches (2015 global total allowable catch: 2 000 t).

ICCAT has set catch recommendations since the mid-1980s. In 1999, ICCAT adopted a 20-year rebuilding plan for the western stock. Based on the last stock assessment, in 2013, there has been a steady increase in stock size since the rebuilding plan was adopted and the stock size has increased to 55% of the historical 1970 level. (see footnote 4) In light of this, ICCAT increased the total allowable catch to 2 000 t for each of 2015 and 2016.

Prepublication

On August 27, 2016, a proposed Order and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement indicating the Government of Canada’s intention not to add ABT to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA, were published in Part I of the Canada Gazette for a 30-day public comment period. Relevant stakeholders, including Provincial governments, Indigenous communities and groups, industry and non-governmental organizations, were provided written notification of publication through email and mail correspondence. Six comments were received, all in opposition to the proposed decision not to list the ABT. Four of these comments were from members of the public, one comment was from an environmental organization based in Atlantic Canada, and another was from an Aboriginal council representing several Aboriginal groups. The common thread in all the comments received indicated disappointment with the proposed decision not to list ABT; however, respondents suggested several recommendations on how to move forward to rebuild and recover the ABT.

A summary of the comments received during the above-mentioned comment period and how they have been addressed are as follows.

(a) Concerns with the Do Not List rationale for ABT.

  • ABT should have been referred back to COSEWIC since there was new science available; COSEWIC’s scientific advice is a key component in the Government of Canada’s decision making process. However, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) also takes other factors into account. There is more recent scientific evidence available which indicates that the stock is increasing, and that the stock can continue to be effectively managed under the Fisheries Act. It is important to balance fully-formed decision making with a timely process. It should be noted that with or without the referral back to COSEWIC, the Committee may well decide to reassess the species, as is their obligation under section 24 of SARA to review the classification of the species at least every 10 years, or at any time it has reason to believe that the status of the species has changed significantly. If the reassessment generates a change in status, then the listing process would be triggered again.
  • ABT should not be fished to allow it to recover. Listing ABT would result in the closure of the Canadian fishery only, and likely would not result in any real threat reduction because Canada’s ICCAT allocation may be transferred to other countries in this internationally managed fishery, some of which do not have the same stringent tagging and catch monitoring processes that Canada has in place.

(b) A Do Not List decision for ABT requires incremental management measures under other legislation with the objective of recovering the species.

  • DFO will continue to manage ABT in Canada under the Fisheries Act, within the recommended annual total allowable catch determined by ICCAT, and will implement -- in addition to existing management measures -- a set of management measures for its own quota management. These additional measures will include: prioritizing the development of an updated Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (see footnote 5) (IFMP); undertaking a risk assessment of the current catch monitoring requirements in the various ABT directed fisheries, review of at-sea observer coverage levels in the fleets that interact with ABT to ensure that coverage is sufficient and used strategically to increase the effectiveness of observers in both the directed and incidental-catch fisheries; and, review existing monitoring documents and identify necessary amendments or additions to improve data collection in both the directed and incidental-catch fisheries.
  • In regards to updating the IFMP, the Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on Sustaining Canada’s Major Fish Stocks (see footnote 6) recommended that the plans for achieving sustainable fisheries should set out priorities, targets and timelines for putting in place IFMPs for all major fish stocks, including ABT. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans agreed with this recommendation and will prioritize its work to develop a plan with priorities, targets and timelines for completing IFMPs for all major stocks that do not have these plans and for updating existing plans by the end of the 2016–2017 fiscal year. Development of the IFMPs will be consistent with the departmental guidance on IFMPs, which includes a requirement for clear fishery objectives and a performance review.

(c) Socio-economic considerations should have detailed more benefits.

  • The potential benefits if ABT had been listed include maintaining the role the species plays in ecosystem functions and other non-use values arising due to peoples’ willingness to pay for the conservation of species for future generations to enjoy or for knowing that the species exists. As any potential future use of this species (e.g. commercial fishing) is unknown, the benefits associated with any such activities are not included in this assessment.
  • Listing the species under SARA, and the subsequent closure of the directed ABT and charter boat fisheries, would result in significant socio-economic impacts to industry and to communities in the region, including Indigenous communities, as well as economic impacts on fisheries that land ABT as by-catch.
  • As a country participating in ICCAT, Canada has an ongoing opportunity to be a full participant in ABT management internationally, including providing input into decision making on harvest levels that follow the best available scientific advice.

(d) Concerns over the Canadian government not respecting treaty rights.

  • In allowing for continued fishing under a precautionary management regime, the Government of Canada is taking a balanced approach that enables involvement of Indigenous Peoples in commercial fisheries opportunities, while managing sustainable fisheries resources for the future.

Rationale

Significant and immediate socio-economic impacts to industry from the application of the general prohibitions would have resulted if the species had been listed on the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA. In the absence of listing under SARA, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act.

Listing the ABT species as endangered under SARA, and the subsequent closure of the directed and by-catch fisheries, including commercial harvesting, charter boat and Aboriginal commercial-communal fisheries, would have resulted in significant socio-economic impacts to industry and to communities in the region, including Indigenous communities. The non-listing option received support from the majority of the provinces, Indigenous organizations, and potentially impacted stakeholders who responded during consultations.

As ICCAT recommends the annual total allowable catch and allocates it among contracting parties, including Canada, listing the species under SARA is not expected to have a significant positive impact on the species, since the closure of the Canadian fishery could result in ICCAT reallocating or transferring the Canadian quota to other countries, resulting in no net decrease in fishing mortality to ABT. Some of the other Contracting Parties to ICCAT do not have the comprehensive tagging and dockside monitoring requirements that are in place in the Canadian fishery and thus reallocated quota may not be as tightly monitored. Additionally, the Canadian fishery provides key indexes of abundance for the assessment of the stock which would be lost if the fishery were discontinued.

Since the COSEWIC assessment and status report published in 2011, the ABT population has been re-evaluated with a full stock assessment that had been undertaken in 2014. Based on this most recent ICCAT stock assessment, the western stock has been increasing in recent years, and the biomass is projected to continue to increase under current catches (2015 global total allowable catch: 2 000 t).

Under the Do Not List decision, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue to manage, under the Fisheries Act, the Canadian quota of the recommended annual total allowable catch by ICCAT, and will implement a set of management measures to address the needs of the species, in particular through prioritizing the drafting of an updated IFMP; undertake a risk assessment of current catch monitoring for each the existing fleets that harvest ABT; review at-sea observer coverage levels in the fleets that interact with ABT; and review existing monitoring documents and identify necessary amendments or additions to improve data collection in both the directed and incidental-catch fisheries. This may lead to more accurate post-release mortality estimates and may have additional ecological benefits that arise due to increased knowledge of the species and its interaction with the ecosystem.

Yellowmouth Rockfish

The GIC, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, has decided that the Yellowmouth Rockfish not be added to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA.

This decision means that the prohibitions and the requirement to prepare a recovery strategy under SARA, including the identification and, later, the protection of critical habitat, will not apply. Alternatively, the species will be managed using other legislative (e.g. Fisheries Act) and non-legislative (e.g. government programs, actions by non-governmental organizations, industry and Canadians) tools.

The Yellowmouth Rockfish is one of 35 rockfish species occurring along Canada’s Pacific coast. Recruitment (the number of juvenile organisms added to a population during a given time period) is highly variable from year to year and there have been no strong recruitment events noted since the 1980s. Surveys indicate that abundance of this species has declined considerably over the past 40 years; between 1996 and 2007, a 2.5% decrease in the population index was observed. Recently developed surveys designed specifically for groundfish species indicate a relatively stable population trajectory, however the length of time for this survey is short relative to Yellowmouth Rockfish generation time. The total allowable catch (2 365 t) for this species has not changed since 2001, and the catch for the species has been stable. As with other rockfish species, this slow-growing, long-lived species is vulnerable to overfishing by both directed and incidental fisheries. Bottom trawling has also been identified as a threat to the species’ habitat. COSEWIC assessed the Yellowmouth Rockfish and classified it as threatened in April 2010.

Prepublication

On August 27, 2016, a proposed Order and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement indicating the Government of Canada’s intention not to add Yellowmouth Rockfish to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA, were published in Part I of the Canada Gazette for a 30-day public comment period. No comments were received in relation to the proposed decision not to list Yellowmouth Rockfish.

Rationale

Significant and immediate negative socio-economic impacts to industry from the triggering of the general prohibitions would have resulted if the species had been listed on the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA, and the incremental benefits to the species would likely have been small.

The Yellowmouth Rockfish will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act as part of the integrated groundfish fishery. Current management measures in this fishery include: the establishment of individual transferable quotas and total allowable catch provisions guided by scientific advice and the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF); mandatory 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring; and, accountability for all rockfish catch (released and retained).

Since the implementation of the Commercial Groundfish Integration Program in 2006, all reported rockfish catches have remained within the prescribed total allowable catch, and conservation objectives for rockfish have been met. Additional management measures will be implemented to enhance existing mechanisms and will include more frequent updates to stock assessments to enable timely implementation of management measures under the Fisheries Act. As the current harvest is 1% of the current biomass and the Yellowmouth Rockfish is considered to be in the healthy zone of the SFF, no changes to the total allowable catch are proposed at this time. If the population falls below the healthy zone, the total allowable catch would be adjusted according to updated scientific information. These management measures can achieve the conservation outcomes associated with the species.

Conclusion

By way of this Order, the GIC is not adding the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and the Yellowmouth Rockfish to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA. The decisions not to add these two species to the List were made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The GIC also approves that the Minister of the Environment, in accordance with subsection 27(1.2) of SARA, include a statement in the public registry established under SARA setting out the reasons for the decisions not to add these species to the List set out in Schedule 1 to SARA. Those reasons are set out in the annex to the Order and will be posted on the website of the Species at Risk Public Registry. (see footnote 7)

  • Footnote a
    S.C. 2002, c. 29
  • Footnote 1
    The Governor in Council is the Governor General of Canada acting by and with the advice of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada (Cabinet).
  • Footnote 2
    More information on COSEWIC can be found at www.cosewic.gc.ca.
  • Footnote 3
    More information can be found at https://www.iccat.int/en/.
  • Footnote 4
    More information can be found at http://www.iccat.es/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2014-SCRS-REP_ENG.pdf.
  • Footnote 5
    More information can be found at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/peches-fisheries/ifmp-gmp/index-eng.htm.
  • Footnote 6
    More information can be found at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201610_02_e_41672.html.
  • Footnote 7
    www.sararegistry.gc.ca