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.
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