Grizzly.jpg

Canada Failing to Protect Habitat of Imperilled Species: New Report

Official recognition that a Canadian species is in trouble is no guarantee that the slide towards extinction can be slowed or halted, a new study has found.

A paper by Raincoast Conservation Foundation scientist Caroline Fox and co-authors from the University of Victoria, published Monday by the scientific journal PLOS ONE, looks at species assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and concludes that, instead of recovering, many have become more endangered.

“Using the COSEWIC assessments, obviously we are not doing as well as we would like,” Fox said in an interview.

The study, Trends in Extinction Risk for Imperiled Species in Canada, aimed to assess the effectiveness of Canada’s biodiversity conservation and the report card is not good. 

Fox and her colleagues looked at 369 species and found that 115 had become more endangered, 202 were unchanged and 52 improved in status. Only 20, amounting to 5.4 per cent, improved to the extent that they were no longer at risk of extinction.

Species at risk of extinction or extirpation are initially reviewed by COSEWIC, an independent scientific panel that makes recommendations to government, and some species are then listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Once a species is listed under the Species at Risk Act it has legal protection and, for most species, critical habitat is supposed to be identified and protected.

However, the study found that, in most cases, critical habitat was not fully identified. Of the 221 cases studied that required critical habitat protection, only 56 met the requirements.

“We suggest that the Canadian government should formally identify and protect critical habitat, as is required by existing legislation,” says the study.

“In addition, our finding that at-risk species in Canada rarely recover leads us to recommend that every effort be made to actively prevent species from becoming at-risk in the first place.”

Species at risk are protected by patchwork layers of legislation and the Species at Risk Act is the last resort, Fox said.

The study notes that recent weakening of federal laws that protect habitat, such as changes to the Fisheries Act, may result in more species heading for trouble.

“Future legislation should be underpinned by a strong mandate to conserve habitat and we recommend that any legislative changes that may reduce habitat protection (e.g. the Fisheries Act) should be reconsidered,” the report says.

Photo: Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?

Conservation chronicles: Sarah Cox dives into the heart of wildlife protection in her new book

In her new book Signs of Life: Field Notes from the Frontlines of Extinction award-winning journalist Sarah Cox takes readers on a journey across Canada:...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Thousands of members make The Narwhal’s independent journalism possible. Will you help power our work in 2024?
Will you help power our journalism in 2024?
That means our newsletter has become the most important way we connect with Narwhal readers like you. Will you join the nearly 90,000 subscribers getting a weekly dose of in-depth climate reporting?
A line chart in green font colour with the title "Our Facebook traffic has cratered." Chart shows about 750,000 users via Facebook in 2019, 1.2M users in 2020, 500,000 users in 2021, 250,000 users in 2022, 100,000 users in 2023.
Readers used to find us on Facebook. Now we’re blocked
That means our newsletter has become the most important way we connect with Narwhal readers like you. Will you join the nearly 90,000 subscribers getting a weekly dose of in-depth climate reporting?
A line chart in green font colour with the title "Our Facebook traffic has cratered." Chart shows about 750,000 users via Facebook in 2019, 1.2M users in 2020, 500,000 users in 2021, 250,000 users in 2022, 100,000 users in 2023.
Readers used to find us on Facebook. Now we’re blocked
Overlay Image