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Consultation Workbook on the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations)

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

The Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations)

Consultation Workbook on the proposed addition of a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk

November 2010

Aussi disponible en français

photo of Atlantic Cod

Illustration by Gary Taylor (c) Fisheries and Oceans Canada


Introduction

Why are we asking for your feedback on the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations)?

The purpose of this workbook is to invite all Canadians to share their views on whether the status of the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes population) should be added to the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Special Concern.

The Workbook summary

This workbook is broken down into three parts.

  • Part 1 provides general background information on the federal Species at Risk Act, and explains how a species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, and what happens once that occurs.
  • Part 2 provides information about the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations) in Canada and outlines its current at risk status.
  • Part 3 (detachable) consists of a questionnaire for you to complete and send to the federal government. It is intended to assist you in stating your concerns and advice.

Your view is important to us!

Your view on whether the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations) should be added to the SARA List of Wildlife Species at Risk is important to this consultation process. Your opinions will be carefully considered.


Part 1: The Species at Risk Act

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) became law on June 5, 2003. This federal legislation helps prevent Canada's wildlife species from becoming extinct. The Act sets out how the federal government will decide which species are in greatest need of protection and what it will do to protect those species. It identifies how governments, organizations and individuals can work together to protect plants and animals (including aquatic species), and it establishes penalties for failing to obey the Act.

Plants and animals protected under the Act are included in the SARA List of Wildlife Species at Risk. This inventory of protected species will be called the SARA List in the rest of this consultation workbook.

Who determines if a species is at risk?

The federal government will consider adding a species to the SARA List only if the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) considers a species at risk and recommends legal protection. COSEWICis a legally recognized group of independent experts who use science and traditional knowledge to determine which species need added protection. These recommendations are formally presented to the federal government.

As part of the recommendations, COSEWICplaces the species it considers to be at risk into one of five categories:

Extinct : A wildlife species that no longer exists.

Extirpated : A wildlife species that is no longer found in the wild in Canada, but may be found elsewhere.

Endangered : A wildlife species that will likely soon become Extirpated or Extinct.

Threatened : A wildlife species likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to help protect it.

Special Concern : A wildlife species that may become Threatened or Endangered if nothing is done to help protect it.

Once the COSEWICrecommendations are received, the federal Cabinet must decide if it will support, reject or send recommendations back to COSEWIC for further consideration. As part of the Cabinet's consideration process, it must consider the views of Canadians, as well as the economic and social implications of protecting a species under SARA.

What happens once a species or population is added to the SARA List?

The amount of protection that SARA provides depends on its status in the above five at risk categories.

It is illegal to kill, harm, harass, possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened species. It is also generally illegal to damage or destroy the places these species live. These prohibitions do not apply to species of Special Concern.

The ministers responsible for the Act are: the Minister of the Environment, who is responsible for animals and plants found on federal lands; and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who is responsible for aquatic animals. Under special circumstances, these Ministers may make exceptions to the above prohibitions. For example, a responsible minister can issue a permit that would allow a qualified scientist to carry out a research project that would likely benefit a listed species, but may require the collection of specimens, or a physical relocation from its current habitat. Exceptions can only be made if the Minister is assured that the survival or recovery of the species will not be jeopardized.

The role of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board

Under the Species at Risk Act, there is clear recognition that “the roles of Aboriginal peoples of Canada and of wildlife management boards established under land claims agreements in the conservation of wildlife in this country are essential”. Additionally, the Act is clear that the government must consult with wildlife management boards, which are authorized under land claim agreement, before making listing determinations.

In Nunavut, an agreement was signed in 2008 between the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the federal government to formalise the process. This agreement is referred to as the “Memorandum of Understanding to harmonize the designation of rare, threatened and endangered species under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the listing of wildlife under the Species at Risk Act”.

This agreement is designed to outline the actions and timelines of how the federal government will coordinate its consultation efforts with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board once COSEWIC provides its assessments. It is further intended to ensure that dialogue between the Board and the government is open and transparent throughout the process.

Following COSEWIC’s assessment, the federal government (Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada or Environment Canada, depending on the species and area) provides the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board with the rationale for the assessment, and information related to that assessment.

Public consultations are then undertaken by the federal government as part of its efforts to better understand the potential social and economic benefits and costs. It must also consider the potential consequences of not adding the species. Government representatives meet with various group and individuals that have a direct interest in the species or that wish to provide comments, including relevant Aboriginal organizations. Summary reports are developed, and are shared with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, who further distributes the report to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc and the Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat.

The federal government then advises the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board with its preliminary consideration related to listing of the species, and provides the Board with the best available information for their consideration.

At this stage, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board advises its beneficiaries of the listing considerations and seeks additional input. All relevant information is made available. The Board makes its decision following the completion of this process.

The Board’s decision is provided to the Minster of the Environment. If the Minister disagrees with the Board’s decision, the Board may reconsider in consideration on the Minister’s rationale. The Board will then submit its final decision to the Minister, who then must accept, reject or vary the Board’s decision.

The Government carefully considers all comments it receives. Following this final consideration, the Government must decide whether to add the species to the SARA List. Its decision is published in the Canada Gazette, Part II and on the SARA Public Registry.

Public consultation

When deciding whether to add a species to the SARA List, the federal government must consider potential social and economic benefits and costs. It must also consider the potential consequences of notadding the species. To do this, government representatives meet with various group and individuals that have a direct interest in the species or that wish to provide comments. This may include landowners, aboriginal groups, land users, wildlife management boards, non-government environmental organizations and industry. This consultation workbook provides another option to allow Canadians to provide their views to government.

Following the consultation period, the Government carefully considers all comments it receives. Following this final consideration, the Government must decide whether to add the species to the SARAList. Its decision is published in the Canada Gazette, Part II and on the SARA Public Registry.

Recovery strategies and management plans

If a wildlife species is added to the SARA List as an Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened species, the federal government must prepare a strategy for its recovery. The recovery strategy outlines known threats to the species, identifies the habitat it needs to survive, and highlights gaps in knowledge. It also sets a goal for the species' recovery.

A recovery strategy must be completed within one year of a species being listed as Endangered, and within two years if it is Threatened or Extirpated.

If a wildlife species is considered Special Concern, the federal government must prepare a management plan within three years of the species being added to the SARA List. The management plan identifies conservation measures aimed at protecting the species and its habitat.

The recovery strategies and management plans are prepared in cooperation with directly affected groups, including wildlife management boards, Aboriginal organizations and provincial or territorial governments responsible for managing the species. Using public notices, letters and meetings, every effort is made towards to consult individuals, organizations and communities that may be directly affected by these strategies and plans.

When complete, the recovery strategy or management plan is posted on the online SARA Public Registry website, which provides information and documents about species at risk in Canada. Once posted, the public has 60 days to let the federal government hear its views. The government then has 30 days to consider any comments received, make any changes to the proposed recovery strategy or management plan, and post a final copy in the Public Registry.

Action plans

After the final posting of the recovery strategy, one or more action plans are prepared. Action plans identify ways to reduce threats to the species and protect its critical habitat, as well as other activities to be undertaken to support the recovery strategy. Action plans are prepared in cooperation with directly affected groups, including wildlife management boards, Aboriginal organizations and provincial or territorial governments responsible for managing the species. Using public notices, letters and meetings, every effort is made to consult individuals, organizations and communities that may be directly affected by these plans.

When the proposed action plan is completed, it is posted on the Public Registry for 60 days, to allow the federal government to hear views of Canadians. After 60 days, the government has 30 days to consider any comments received, make any changes to the action plan and post a final copy in the Public Registry.

For more information

Visit the SARA Public Registry for more information on the Species at Risk Act and the various species that receive federal protection.

Additional information can be found on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Species at Risk website and on the website of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada ().


Part 2: Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations)

Reference

COSEWICAssessment and Status Report on the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations) Atlantic Cod in Canada. 2010.

Current COSEWICdesignation

1998: Atlantic Cod was considered a single Designatable Unit and was assessed by COSEWICas Special Concern

2003: Atlantic Cod were separated into four (4) Designated Units

  • i. Laurentian North: Threatened
  • ii. Newfoundland & Labrador: Endangered
  • iii. Maritimes: Special Concern
  • iv. Arctic Population: Special Concern

2010: Atlantic Cod were further separated into six (6) Designated Units

  • i. Laurentian North: Endangered
  • ii. Newfoundland and Labrador: Endangered

Maritimes unit is further separated into 2 new Units

  • iii. Laurentian South: Endangered
  • iv. Southern Population: Endangered

Arctic unit is further separated into 2 new Units

  • v. Arctic Lakes: Special Concern
  • vi. Arctic Marine: Data Deficient

Current SARAListing status

The Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes population) is not currently listed on the federal SARA List.

As a result of COSEWIC's re-evaluation of the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes population) as a separate Designatable Unit in 2010, the Government of Canada is presently considering whether to add this species to the SARA List of Wildlife Species at Risk as Special Concern.

Species description

The Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) is a member of the Gadidae family. The Gadidae family also includes other well-known species of cod, such as Arctic Cod and Greenland Cod. Atlantic Cod have a classic, streamlined shape and are able to sustain moderate speed over relatively long distances. They are characterized by three dorsal fins, two anal fins, a single chin barbel and a very distinct lateral line. Their colour is brown to green, with spots on the lateral and dorsal surface. Cod in the ocean may grow to lengths exceeding 2.0 m, while maximum length within the Arctic Lakes populations appears to be slightly less than 1.5 m.

Photo of Atlantic Salmon by Dieter Craasmann

Figure 1: Atlantic Cod in a marine environment. Reproduced with permission. Photo credit: Dieter Craasmann

Where are the Arctic Lakes populations of Atlantic Cod?

Marine populations of Atlantic Cod are the original source of the Arctic Lakes populations; they consist of three separate populations. Atlantic Cod in the Arctic lakes inhabit three saltwater, coastal lakes on south-eastern Baffin Island (Fig. 2); Lakes, Ogac, Qasigialiminiq and Tariujarusiq. These Lakes are separated from the coastal environment and their cod populations have become genetically distinct from their marine cousins and from each other. Seawater enters these lakes only during the highest summer tides. These Arctic lakes are considered meromictic, or stratified, and have a freshwater layer of water a few metres deep, with a larger saltwater layer beneath it. The cod live only in the saltwater layer, except for very short trips into the freshwater layer.

  • Ogac Lake (also known as Ogak Lake and Ney Harbour) - Across Frobisher Bay, 117 km from Iqaluit at the head of Ney Harbour (62º 51´N, 67º 20´W; NTS map 025J14)
  • Qasigialiminiq Lake - First lake on south arm of Nettilling Fjord; across from Pangnirtung and deeper into Cumberland Sound (66º 02´N, 68º 12´W; NTS map 026K00)
  • Tariujarusiq Lake - First lake on north arm of Brown Inlet, just west from Nettilling Fjord (65º 29´N, 67º 20´W; NTS map 026G00)

Figure 2: Distribution of Atlantic Cod - Arctic Lakes populations

How many Atlantic Cod are there in the Arctic Lakes populations?

Population estimates for two of the three Arctic lakes are not available; however, some information does exist for Ogac Lake.

Based on a study from 1962, the number of reproductive cod in Ogac Lake in Frobisher Bay is estimated at 500 individuals. Less than 10,000 immature cod are estimated to live in Ogac Lake, and few will reach reproductive size.

Given that each population is genetically unique, and that inter-mixing between the lakes and the coastal environment does not take place, any decline in a one lake's population will not be replaced by another.

What are the threats to the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations)

Atlantic Cod in the Arctic Lakes populations are found in only three coastal lakes, and the number of reproductive adults may be no more than a few thousand in total.

While fishing is typically cited as the reason for the decline for most fish stocks, it is only one of the reasons that these combined lake populations have been designated as Special Concern.

The small number of verified locations for these populations and the small area of these lakes is another reason for designation. The combined surface area of the three lakes is less than 20 square kilometres, suggesting this small area and restricted distribution may be especially sensitive to disturbance. The lakes themselves are unique habitats and may be easily disturbed. No other fish occur in these lakes and the cod rely on high tides to bring in food. Changing sea levels and the resultant tide levels would likely affect these populations of Atlantic Cod.

Immigration of other Atlantic Cod populations is unlikely, due to the isolated nature of these lakes as well as the shallow and temporary inlet/outlets.

What will happen if the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations) is added to the SARAList as Special Concern?

Automatic prohibition provisions of SARA do not apply to species of Special Concern, however a management plan will be required within three years of the species being added to the SARA list.

A management plan may include the following measures:

  • Restriction of recreational fishing in areas where the species is known to occur;
  • Increased protection of areas of known habitat;
  • Strict guidelines may be established for those who wish to carry out research on the species or in areas of critical habitat; and
  • More research may be carried out on potential threats to these isolated populations of Atlantic Cod and the level of impact of various human activities.

* Please note that a management planning process will involve further consultation.


Part 3: Let Us Know What You Think

The following questionnaire invites you to reflect on the implications of adding the Atlantic Cod (Arctic Lakes populations) to the SARA List as Special Concern.

Your answers and comments will tell us what you think about the protection and recovery of this unique species, and especially about the possible effects of the decision to change its status on the SARA List.

If you wish to keep the other sections of this workbook, please feel free to detach them and return only the questionnaire.

Return the completed questionnaire or your comments by mail, fax or E-mail to the following address:

SARA Coordinator
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
501 University Crescent
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N6
Email: fwisar@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Fax: 204 983-5192
Telephone: 204 984-0599
Toll-free: 1-866-538-1609

Alternately, you can provide your views by visiting the Public Registry and post your comments.

Please submit your comments by January 28, 2011.

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