Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada
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Order Giving Notice of Decisions not to add Certain Species to the List of Endangered Species (SI/2006-61)

Regulations are current to 2019-11-19

ANNEX 1Statement Setting Out the Reasons for Not Adding Three Populations of Atlantic Cod and One Population of Coho Salmon to the List

Atlantic Cod (Newfoundland and Labrador Population, Laurentian North Population, Maritimes population)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended that three populations of Atlantic Cod not be listed.

The Atlantic Cod is a medium to large marine fish inhabiting coastal areas and in offshore waters overlying the continental shelf throughout the Northwest and Northeast Atlantic Ocean. On a global scale, the historical distribution of cod probably differs relatively little from that of its present distribution. In Canada, Atlantic Cod are found from Georges Bank and the Bay of Fundy in the south, northward along the Scotian Shelf, throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence, around the island of Newfoundland, and finally along the eastern shores of Labrador and Baffin Island, Nunavut. There are landlocked populations of Atlantic Cod on Baffin Island. Outside Canadian waters in the Northwest Atlantic, cod can be found on the northeast and southeast tips of Grand Bank and on Flemish Cap. Cod inhabiting the Northeast Newfoundland Shelf, eastern Labrador, and the Barents Sea typically mature between five and seven years of age. In the warmer waters at the southern end of its Canadian range (Georges Bank, off the state of Maine) and in the Bay of Fundy, cod commonly attain maturity at two to three years of age. The colour of cod varies a great deal throughout Canadian waters, having been described as near-black, brown and red, depending on the location of capture.

COSEWIC has assessed the Newfoundland and Labrador, Laurentian North and Maritimes populations as endangered, threatened and special concern, respectively. COSEWIC has identified the threats to these three populations of cod as fishing, predation by fish and seals and natural and fishing-induced changes to the ecosystem. The cod stocks that make up these three populations are at various levels of abundance. While it is true that there are fewer cod in stocks in offshore waters where they were once abundant, the situation for the cod species as a whole is highly variable. There are tens of millions of cod, particularly in the near shore waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, and some cod stocks are recovered and increasing, supporting sustainable fisheries.

Of the 12 aquatic species currently under consideration for listing under the Species At Risk Act (SARA), these three populations of Atlantic Cod are particularly challenging. The decline of the once-dominant cod fishery and the historical and current significance of Atlantic Cod to the fishery and economy of Atlantic Canada and Quebec have been key considerations in the development of this recommendation. In the early 1990s it became clear that groundfish populations were reduced. Many stocks were closed to fishing in 1992/93. Cod management through the 1990s and into the early 2000s focused on the recovery of the fishery. Moratoria on directed fishing of many cod stocks continue to this day, throughout much of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Despite the fact that shellfish have dominated the Atlantic fishing industry in terms of value and effort since the collapse of most groundfish species in the 1990s, cod still holds a place of preeminence among those who rely on the fishery for their livelihood, as the species upon which the Atlantic fishery was built. The cod fishery is at the core of the cultural roots of many coastal rural communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Consequently, any decision that is made with respect to the management of Atlantic Cod will likely generate intense reactions. This was certainly evidenced in 2003 when the directed cod fisheries in two cod management areas (4RS3Pn and 2J3KL) were closed. These closures resulted in forceful and extended public backlash including from industry and provinces.

Significant socio-economic impacts are anticipated if the Newfoundland and Labrador and Laurentian North populations of Atlantic Cod are listed under SARA. The fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Lower North Shore of Quebec has already been hard hit by downturns in groundfish fisheries since the early 1990s, and a listing under SARA would exacerbate this decline. Listing cod could effectively extinguish any hope in rural coastal communities for a return of the cod fishery in the region for the foreseeable future and may increase out-migration from rural coastal communities. Also, if Atlantic Cod were to be listed there is the potential for impact on the management of other groundfish fisheries, such as yellowtail flounder, skate and redfish.

If Laurentian North and Newfoundland and Labrador populations of Atlantic Cod were to be listed at this time, there would be upwards of $82 million in losses to the fish harvesting and processing sectors, 9,764 fishers and crew would be affected to some degree and 1,348 processing jobs would be lost. As Atlantic Cod, Maritimes population is a species of special concern, SARA prohibitions do not apply.

Any identified long-term benefits of listing the three populations of Atlantic Cod may not accrue, if at all, until a number of years in the future. In light of aging demographics of the industry and rural communities as well as the length of time required for any recovery to be realized, those who bear the brunt of the immediate costs may not be those who would realize the future benefits of a listing decision. Instead, the approach will be to continue to work with domestic and foreign governments, the fishing industry, non-government organizations and others to rebuild the cod populations using current and new initiatives.

Many conservation measures are already in place to protect and conserve Atlantic Cod. These measures include moratoria, reduced direct and bycatch harvests, reduced allowable harvest of capelin (a prey species of cod), mandatory harvest plans for all groundfish and the use of at-sea observers to monitor the harvest of Atlantic Cod. Three complementary federal-provincial Cod Action Teams have existed since 2003 and have developed rebuilding strategies for most stocks in these populations.

The government believes the best way forward is to manage the recovery of cod through a comprehensive, integrated and Atlanticwide approach that will build on the unprecedented collaboration of the federal-provincial Cod Action Teams.

Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser population)

The Minister of the Environment has recommended that Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser Population) not be listed.

Coho is one of six native salmon species in North America. Most Coho spend their first year in freshwater and the next 18 months in the ocean before returning to freshwater to spawn and die. Interior Fraser Coho are genetically unique from other Coho populations.

Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser Population), which begin and end their lives upstream of the Fraser River Canyon in British Columbia, occupy a significant proportion of the range of Coho Salmon within Canada. They are widespread throughout the upper Fraser and Thompson River systems, the Thompson being the largest tributary watershed in the Fraser River system. Coho Salmon that were spawned in the interior Fraser River watershed have been recovered in fisheries from Alaska to Oregon, but most were caught off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and in the Strait of Georgia.

COSEWIC has assessed Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser population) as endangered. The primary reasons given by COSEWIC for this designation and the declining numbers of Coho Salmon were overfishing, changing marine conditions, and habitat perturbations.

The GIC, on the recommendation of the Minister of Environment, on the advice of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, is not listing Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser Population) based on uncertainties associated with changes in the marine environment and potential future socio-economic impacts on users associated with the uncertainty. Not listing provides future management flexibility related to uncertainty about marine survival and possible difficulties in recovery if marine survival worsens.

There is uncertainty around future foregone revenue for Coho following its listing under SARA and the increased harvest that may result in the event of increased marine survival. As well, there is uncertainty due to the fact that currently the sale of legally harvested fish is prohibited, though it is expected that these issues will be resolved before Coho recover to the extent where open sale would be possible. Over the longer term, if marine survival improves and if adequate flexibility is not available under the recovery strategy, there could be losses experienced by the fishing industry. In the 2009-2016 timeframe, foregone gross combined revenue loss for the fish harvesting and processing sectors could range from $4.9 million to $52.9 million (present value), with direct total employment impacts ranging from 350 to 2160 person-years. In addition, losses in recreational sector revenue resulting from reduced angling opportunities could be between $41.9 million to $227 million.

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