Vol. 140, No. 12 - June 14, 2006

Registration
SOR/2006-115 June 1, 2006

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

Order Extending the Time for the Assessment of the Status of Wildlife Species

P.C. 2006-436 June 1, 2006

Whereas, pursuant to subsection 130(5) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote a), the Minister of the Environment has consulted with the competent ministers and has included a statement in the public registry setting out the reasons for the extension;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 130(5) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote b), hereby makes the annexed Order Extending the Time for the Assessment of the Status of Wildlife Species.

ORDER EXTENDING THE TIME FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF THE STATUS OF WILDLIFE SPECIES

1. The time provided for the assessment of the status of the following wildlife species is extended for one year from June 5, 2006:

(a) "Snake, Lake Erie Water (Nerodia sipedon insularum) Couleuvre d'eau du lac Érié" set out under the heading "REPTILES" in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Species at Risk Act;

(b) "Cisco, Blackfin (Coregonus nigripinnis) Cisco à nageoires noires" set out under the heading "FISH" in Part 2 of Schedule 2 to that Act; and

(c) "Sculpin, Deepwater (Myoxocephalus thompsoni) Great Lakes population Chabot de profondeur des Grands Lacs population des Grands Lacs" set out under the heading "FISH" in Part 2 of Schedule 2 to that Act.

2. This Order comes into force on the day on which it is registered.

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Order.)

Description

The Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, is, by Order, extending the time for the assessment of species on Schedule 2 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

SARA establishes the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as an independent, scientific advisory body on the status of species at risk. The Committee's primary function is to assess the level of risk for wildlife species based on the best available information on the biological status of a species, including scientific knowledge, aboriginal traditional knowledge and community knowledge. This assessment is based on biological factors identified in detailed status reports and the application of assessment criteria.

In 1999, COSEWIC adopted new quantitative assessment criteria based on criteria developed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Application of these criteria results in more objective, consistent and easily explained assessments.

After the new criteria were adopted, the government asked COSEWIC to reassess all previously designated species using these criteria. This reassessment workis ongoing and has not yet been fully completed. Schedule 1 of SARA, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, sets out the list of species at risk assessed by COSEWIC as of the end of 2001 (either as new listings or as reassessments by COSEWIC of previous listings) using these new criteria, as well as species added to Schedule 1 following proclamation. Schedule 2 of SARA contains species that had been assessed by COSEWIC prior to the adoption of the new criteria as endangered or threatened, and that as of the end of 2001, had not been reassessed by COSEWIC. At the time of proclamation, Schedule 2 contained 39 species.

In June 2003, the GIC, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by Order, extended the time for the reassessment by COSEWIC of the species that remained on Schedule 2. This extension will expire on June 5, 2006. Had that extension not been granted, species on Schedule 2 would have been deemed assessed at their original levels by COSEWIC, and eligible for addition to Schedule 1 within 30 days of section 130 of SARA coming into force.

COSEWIC has already reassessed 36 of the 39 species that were on Schedule 2 at proclamation. Currently, three species remain on Schedule 2, including two fish, the Blackfin Cisco and Deepwater Sculpin (Great Lakes population), and one reptile, the Lake Erie Water Snake. The Blackfin Cisco and Deepwater Sculpin are designated as threatened, and the Lake Erie Water Snake is designated as endangered under Schedule 2 of SARA. These species require reassessment, as the information contained in status reports is almost twenty years old.

COSEWIC is in the process of updating the status reports on these three species with the most current and best available scientific information and aboriginal traditional knowledge, so that it can make accurate reassessments. The reassessments of these three species may not, however, be completed prior to the expiration of the current extension order, in which case, these species would be deemed classified by COSEWIC as they are currently designated on Schedule 2 and eligible for addition to Schedule 1 of SARA.

Under subsection 130(5) of SARA, the Minister, after consultation with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, may recommend that the GIC, by order, extend the time provided for the assessment of any species set out in Schedule 2. The Minister must include a statement in the public registry setting out the reasons for the extension.

Given that COSEWIC will not be able to complete the reassessments of the three species remaining on Schedule 2 prior to the expiration of the current extension Order, a second extension order, for a period of one year, is being made by GIC, to provide COSEWIC with sufficient time to complete its reassessments of all three species.

Alternatives

The only alternative to the extension order under SARA would be to allow these three species to be deemed to have been classified by COSEWIC as currently indicated in Schedule 2.

To proceed without an extension order would entail several serious disadvantages. Listing a species as endangered or threatened on Schedule 1 must be founded on the best available biological status of a species including scientific knowledge, aboriginal traditional knowledge and community knowledge.

COSEWIC assessments are based on updated status reports. Given COSEWIC's capacity, and the time needed for the preparation and subsequent reviews of the updated status reports, it is not possible for COSEWIC to reassess the remaining Schedule 2 species by the June 5, 2006 extension expiration date. Without an additional extension order, these species would become deemed to have been classified as set out in Schedule 2 and thus become immediately eligible for addition to Schedule 1 following the expiration date. The Governor in Council would then have nine months after receiving COSEWIC's deemed assessment to determine, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, whether to accept this assessment for each species and add the species to the legal list, to not add the species to the list, or to refer the species back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

Given that the three species were last assessed almost twenty years ago, their status designations may no longer be accurate, as circumstances may have changed and new information is available in most cases. Any species with a risk status based on outdated information may be the object of a recommendation from the Minister of Environment to the Governor in Council that the deemed assessments be referred back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. If the Governor in Council were to accept that recommendation, no time would be gained in obtaining legal protection for the species under SARA.

Furthermore, status reports written prior to the proclamation of SARA did not require the inclusion of aboriginal traditional knowledge, even in the case of species of particular interest to Aboriginal people and the Wildlife Management Boards.

There may also be negative environmental consequences of erroneous listing. If species are listed in a higher-than-actual risk category, resources to conserve and recover them may be diverted from those species that are truly in need.

In light of the above-mentioned considerations, the alternative of not proceeding with the extension order is neither cost effective nor helpful in expediting the legal protection of species under SARA.

Benefits and Costs

There are no costs associated with this extension order, as it simply maintains the status quo. There are, however, a number of benefits associated with the order. Avoidance of listings based on outdated science provides a benefit to society and industry. Moreover, the addition of species to Schedule 1 that is not based on the most up-to-date science could result in the dedication of resources to species recovery where none may be needed.

After its reassessment by COSEWIC, and subsequent receipt by GIC, each species assessment may be considered for addition to Schedule 1 if its status remains in a risk category.

Consultation

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Parks Canada have been consulted and support the extension.

The Chair of COSEWIC and the co-chairs of the specialist groups responsible for the species that remain to be reassessed provided advice regarding the time needed to complete the reassessments. They are aware of, and support, the proposed extension.

The COSEWIC assessment process is an open and transparent one. Lists of candidate species, as well as species for which status reports are being prepared are posted on the COSEWIC website. Draft status reports are reviewed by independent experts and by the range jurisdictions where the species occur. All COSEWIC members, including all range jurisdictions, review status reports on all species and vote on the status assessments. A press release, containing the list of species assessed, the status assigned to each, and the reasons for the designation, is issued after every COSEWIC meeting and is posted on the COSEWIC website.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Extending the time for COSEWIC to reassess the species will provide time to make accurate assessments using the new criteria, including use of current scientific information and aboriginal traditional knowledge. Also, extending the time for COSEWIC to reassess the species would prevent a possible erroneous listing under SARA at an inappropriate level, and consequently avoid dedication of resources towards species recovery when none may be needed. However, the extension will mean a longer wait for consideration for formal legal listing, and hence a delay of at least one year in their legal protection and recovery under SARA if listed.

A decision not to extend the time for COSEWIC to reassess the species would result in these species being deemed at their current levels. Allowing the extension to lapse could result in these species being submitted for listing under SARA more quickly. However, given that these assessments include outdated scientific information and do not include aboriginal traditional knowledge, the Minister might elect to return the assessments to COSEWIC, which would result in a greater delay.

The Lake Erie Water Snake is listed as Endangered under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, and is also protected under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. There have also been several nature reserves on islands within the Water Snake's range that have been established.

The Blackfin Cisco may be captured as incidental catch, thus possibly causing a detrimental effect on its population over time, but is not the direct subject of commercial fisheries. As well, demand for Blackfin Cisco is low and quotas are in place for its protection. Both the Deepwater Sculpin and Blackfin Cisco, and their habitat, are protected under the Fisheries Act.

When these species are found within the boundaries of national parks of Canada or other lands administered by the Parks Canada Agency, they will continue to be protected under the Canada National Parks Act or measures and management tools available to the Parks Canada Agency under other legislation.

The one-year extension would not slow down COSEWIC reassessments, but would simply accommodate COSEWIC's current schedule for completing the work, while making an allowance for unanticipated delays.

Compliance and Enforcement

There are no compliance issues in this instance, as this Order does not oblige any parties to undertake or abstain from any activities. COSEWIC will continue to conduct the reassessments, as scheduled.

Contacts

Simon Nadeau
Chief
Species Assessment
Environment Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H3
Telephone: (819) 953-1510
FAX: (819) 994-3684
E-mail: Simon.Nadeau@ec.gc.ca

Alison Mudge
Regulatory Analyst
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H3
Telephone: (819) 956-9327
FAX: (819) 994-3684
E-mail: Alison.Mudge@ec.gc.ca

Footnote a

S.C. 2002, c. 29

Footnote b

S.C. 2002, c. 29