How COSEWIC works

Species at Risk Act

The Species at Risk Act established COSEWIC in 2003 and requires that its results be reported to the Canadian government and to the public. It also requires the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada to provide an official response to the assessment results.  The Committee’s meetings are open to the public and COSEWIC issues a report to the Minister and to the public each year.

Wildlife species that have been designated by COSEWIC may then qualify for legal protection and recovery under the Act. It is up to the government to legally protect those wildlife species designated by COSEWIC and the assessments do not take political, social or economic factors into account. The Act only applies to those wildlife species on the official species at risk list.

Assessment process

Part of the work of the Committee is to develop the candidate list of those wildlife species needing to be assessed and to manage the production of wildlife species status reports.  The assessment process is based on a combination of science, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and community knowledge about the species and their environment.  This  includes information derived from observation, personal experience and culture to inform about current and/or past population distribution and abundance, habitat use and availability, life history traits, ecological relationships and potential threats to the survival of the species.

The assessment process is divided into three sequential steps:

  • Candidate list:  selecting the wildlife species that will require an assessment
  • Status report: compiling available data, knowledge and information
  • Assessment results:  record of assessment for determining designation for risk of extinction or extirpation. 

Community knowledge and the COSEWIC assessment process

Annual report

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