Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 11

Existing Protection or Other Status Designations

Globally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the fin whale as “endangered” because of the depletion of populations by whaling (Baillie and Groombridge 1996). Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the fin whale is listed in Appendix I, a category that includes species threatened with extinction, with the intention of halting commercial trade. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals lists the fin whale in Appendix I (endangered). It is also listed in Appendix II, which denotes a species that would benefit from international cooperation. The IWC moratorium on commercial whaling provides protection to fin whales although they are hunted in Greenland for “subsistence.”

In the United States the fin whale is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, where it is listed as endangered.

In Canada, marine mammals are protected from disturbance by the Fisheries Act. The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act, passed in February 2002, imposed proximity and speed restrictions on all vessels operating in the area. Additional duration restrictions were included for marine tour operators (DOJ 2004). The park contains 1,138 km² of marine environment at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence estuary, a region with the richest krill aggregations yet documented in the Northwest Atlantic (Simard and Lavoie 1999).

Enabling legislation is in place for three federal agencies to protect marine habitat: The Oceans Act requires Fisheries and Oceans Canada to define Marine Protected Areas; the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act charges Parks Canada with the delineation of National Marine Conservation Areas; and the Canada Wildlife Act allows Environment Canada to designate Marine Wildlife Areas. Thus, the designation and coordination of these various types of protected areas will require coordination among these three agencies.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is in the process of developing a regulatory framework based on existing national whalewatching guidelines. These regulations are expected to be in place sometime before 2006 (Marylin Joyce, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 200–401 Burrard Street, Vancouver B.C., V6B 3S4).

Fin whales on both coasts were designated by COSEWIC as “Rare” in 1987. This was changed to “Vulnerable” in 1990 when the “Rare” designation was dropped. They were reclassified again in November 2001 by COSEWIC.

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