Vol. 143, No. 6 -- March 18, 2009

Registration

SI/2009-20 March 18, 2009

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

List of Wildlife Species at Risk (decision not to add or referral back to COSEWIC) Order

P.C. 2009-384 March 5, 2009

Her 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) (“the Act”), hereby

(a) refers the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) back to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for further information or consideration; and

(b) approves that the Minister of the Environment include in the public registry established under section 120 of the Act the statement that is attached as the Annex to this Order and that sets out the reasons for referring back to COSEWIC.

ANNEX

STATEMENT SETTING OUT THE REASONS FOR REFERRING THE ASSESSMENT OF THE NORTHERN FUR SEAL (CALLORHINUS URSINUS) BACK TO COSEWIC

Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended that the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal be referred back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

The Northern Fur Seal is the smallest pinniped found off the coast of western Canada. The offshore waters of British Columbia represent important habitat for the species for migration, wintering, and feeding. They breed in three locations in both Russia and the United States (Pribilof Islands, Bogoslof Island and San Miguel Island); however, they do not breed in Canada. Little is known about the possible limiting factors in British Columbia.

COSEWIC considered the Northern Fur Seal as “not at risk” in April 1996. Subsequently, the species was reassessed and designated “threatened” by COSEWIC in April 2006 on the basis of an updated status report. COSEWIC has identified threats to Northern Fur Seal as entanglement in marine debris, disturbance, environmental pollution and reduced availability of prey caused by commercial fisheries or environmental changes.

The Minister of the Environment, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, has recommended that the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal be referred back to COSEWIC to allow for consideration of new information. This recommendation is based on new available information on the species’ total abundance and the number of mature individuals in the population. The new scientific information notes that there are indications of significant movement of Northern Fur Seals between rookeries (breeding grounds) and that there is no evidence of genetic difference between them; and recognizes that Northern Fur Seals breeding at different rookeries represent a single population. While the recent declines are localized to a single stock, COSEWIC has not considered the information that Northern Fur Seals migrating to Canada come from the Pribilof and Bogoslof Islands, as well as from other rookeries in Russia.

In addition, COSEWIC inferred the population abundance from pup counts using decline in pup production, which exaggerates the decline in the total or adult population. Also, the results of scientific analysis support the finding that the rate of population decline is less than indicated in the COSEWIC status report.

The Minister has recommended that the Governor in Council refer this species back to COSEWIC to allow for this information to be considered in the assessment of the species.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

(This note is not part of the Order.)

On June 12, 2008, the Governor in Council acknowledged receipt of 30 species assessments, which the Minister of Environment received from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This initiated a nine-month legislated timeline for the Governor in Council to make a decision on whether or not to add those species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List) set out in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (the Act) or to refer the matter back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration. That nine-month timeline will end on March 12, 2009.

On January 17, 2009, a proposed order to add 23 species, to reclassify five species, and to remove one terrestrial species from the List was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. In the accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS), it was proposed that the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal be referred back to COSEWIC for further consideration of new available information. A total of three comments were received and each was in support of the published proposal.

By way of the Order, the Governor in Council is referring the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.

This decision of the Governor in Council was based on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. At the time of the assessment, COSEWIC inferred the population abundance from pup counts using decline in pup production, which exaggerates the decline in the total or adult population. The results of scientific analysis support the finding that the rate of population decline is less than indicated in the COSEWIC status report. On this basis it is recommended that the species assessment should be referred back to COSEWIC to allow for this information to be considered in the assessment of the species.

The Governor in Council also approves that the Minister of the Environment, in accordance with subsection 27(1.2) of the Act, include a statement in the public registry setting out the reasons for the decision to refer the assessment of the Northern Fur Seal back to COSEWIC. Those reasons are set out in the Annex to the Order and will be posted on the Web site of the public registry established under the Act (www.sararegistry.gc.ca).

Footnote a
S.C. 2002, c. 29