COSEWIC annual report 2016 to 2017
October 24, 2017
The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
200 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard
Gatineau, Québecc K1A 0H3
Dear Minister McKenna,
Please find enclosed the 2016-2017 annual report of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) which I respectfully submit to you and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC). The submission of this report fulfills COSEWIC’s obligations under Section 26 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), which requires that COSEWIC submit a report on its activities to the Minister of the Environment and members of CESCC annually. This Annual Report will also available online through the SARA public registry
As you know, COSEWIC’s role is to assess the conservation status of wildlife species in Canada. Under Item III, Wildlife Species Status Assessments, of the Annual Report, you will find information on how to obtain a copy of the status assignments for the wildlife species assessed in 2016/2017, the applicable criteria and the reasons for the status designation. The Status Reports containing the information used in the assessments are provided in the accompanying email. The reports will also be provided to CESCC members and will be available on the Public Registry.
Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.
The submission of this information fulfills COSEWIC’s obligations under Section 25 of SARA, which requires that COSEWIC provide the Minister of the Environment and the CESCC with a copy of the status assessments and the reasons for the assessments. It also fulfills our obligations under Section 24, which requires that COSEWIC review the classification of species at risk at least once every 10 years.
I would also like to take this opportunity to identify two ongoing challenges for COSEWIC. First and foremost is the challenge the committee faces with the high number of re-assessments that we are expected to carry out within the ten year frame set under SARA Section 24. For instance, COSEWIC is required to re-assess over 115 vascular plant wildlife species alone (and over 220 species in total) over the next three years. This does not include any new assessments or any re-assessments that may occur before the 10 year limit set by SARA owing to more recent information on possible status changes. This workload on Species Specialist Subcommittee members, COSEWIC members, and COSEWIC Secretariat staff is not sustainable without an increase in resources. Second is the issue of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and what constitutes “available” information. Under SARA section 15.2, COSEWIC is required to use the “best available” scientific, community, and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) in its assessment process. “Available” was not defined in SARA and, as such, “available” can be interpreted to mean very different things. While most western science can be accessed via the internet or by direct interviews with scientists who mostly live in the southern margins of Canada, it could be argued that most ATK is only “available” after “gathering” it via person-to-person interviews that require specific protocols often, if not typically, in much more remote regions of Canada. COSEWIC does not have the resources to do such ATK “gathering” which means that we are often not using the best available ATK information in the COSEWIC assessment process. The lack of a definition of what constitutes “available” in SARA means that the transfer of information to support assessments of the two knowledge systems (western science and ATK) is very different: one is relatively straightforward and inexpensive (western science) the other is much more nuanced and requires significantly more resources (ATK). If “available” in terms of ATK means the gathering of information from communities to make sure that COSEWIC fulfils its mandate, then there will need to be a significant increase in resources to facilitate such gathering (these resources need not necessarily be directed towards COSEWIC itself). Specific direction on how to interpret “available” within the context of best available ATK would be most helpful to COSEWIC.
On behalf of the committee, I would again like to thank you for your continuing support for our work and the commitment of your ministry to the conservation and protection of Canada’s biodiversity.
Eric B. (Rick) Taylor
Department of Zoology University of British Columbia
c.c. – Robert McLean, Director General, Assessment and Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Wildlife Service
COSEWIC Annual Report
The Minister of the Environment
and Climate Change
The Canadian Endangered
Species Conservation Council
The Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
Table of contents
- Item I – COSEWIC activities
- 1 Wildlife species assessment meetings
- 2 Important notes regarding status assessments
- 3 Other wildlife species assessment activities
- 4 Wildlife species assessments returned by the governor in council (gic) to COSEWIC for further information or consideration
- 5 Wildlife species selected for status report preparation
- 6 COSEWIC subcommittees
- 7 COSEWIC operations and procedures
- 8 Procedural working groups
- 9 COSEWIC communications
- Item II – COSEWIC membership
- Item III – Wildlife species assessments
- Item IV – Wildife species assessed by COSEWIC since its inception
Item I – COSEWIC activities
1 Wildlife species assessment meetings
Section 15 (1) of the Species at Risk Act states: “The functions of COSEWIC are to (a) assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species and
- classify the species as extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern,
- indicate that COSEWIC does not have sufficient information to classify the species, or
- indicate that the species is not currently at risk”.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the wildlife species”.
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2016 to September, 2017) from November 27 to December 2, 2016 and from April 23 to April 28, 2017. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species.
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2016-2017 reporting period include the following:
|Not at Risk||11|
Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 21 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).
Blanding's Turtle (Nova Scotia population)
Lake Sturgeon (Western Hudson Bay populations)
Ord's Kangaroo Rat
Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Lake Sturgeon (Great Lakes – Upper St. Lawrence populations)
Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Saskatchewan – Nelson Rivers populations)
American Hart's–tongue Fern
Deepwater Sculpin (Great Lakes – Upper St. Lawrence populations)
Lake Sturgeon (Southern Hudson Bay – James Bay populations)
Nuttall's Cottontail nuttallii subspecies
Western Painted Turtle (Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population)
Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Pacific populations)
Data deficient and not at risk
COSEWIC assessed seven wildlife species in April 2017 that were not assigned into risk categories. One new wildlife species was assessed as Data Deficient: Columbia Dune Moth. One wildlife species was assessed as Data Deficient after a split of original respective assessed units: Deepwater Sculpin (Southern Hudson Bay – James Bay populations). One new wildlife species was assessed as Not at Risk: Western Banded Tigersnail. Three wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk after a split of original respective assessed units: Deepwater Sculpin (Saskatchewan – Nelson River populations), Deepwater Sculpin (Western Arctic populations), Deepwater Sculpin (Western Hudson Bay populations).
Classification was reviewed by COSEWIC for two wildlife species previously classified as of Special Concern on Schedule 3 of SARA. A change of status category resulted for Annual Saltmarsh Aster (Not at Risk), and the status of Special Concern was confirmed for Long’s Bulrush.
Atlantic Walrus (Nova Scotia – Newfoundland – Gulf of St Lawrence population) was assessed as Extinct. This population was formerly known as Atlantic Walrus, Northwest Atlantic population, and is currently listed as Extirpated on Schedule 1 of SARA.
COSEWIC assessed ten wildlife species in November 2016 that were not assigned into a risk category. Four new wildlife species were assessed as Data Deficient: Leiberg's Fleabane, Pygmy Whitefish (Saskatchewan – Nelson Rivers populations), Pygmy Whitefish (Southwestern Yukon Beringian populations), and Pygmy Whitefish (Yukon River populations). Two new wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk: Pygmy Whitefish (Pacific populations) and Pygmy Whitefish (Western Arctic populations). Not at Risk status was confirmed for Western Painted Turtle (Prairie / Western Boreal – Canadian Shield population). A change of status category to Not at Risk resulted for two species: Blue Shark (North Atlantic population) (previously Special Concern), and Blue Shark (North Pacific population) (previously Data Deficient).
Classification was reviewed by COSEWIC for one wildlife species previously designated as Endangered by COSEWIC (on Schedule 1 of SARA). COSEWIC assessed the Sonora Skipper as Not at Risk.
With the transmission of this report, COSEWIC provides assessments (see Table 1b) of 34 wildlife species newly classified as Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened and of Special Concern to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to consider whether to recommend to the Governor in Council (GIC) that they be added to Schedule 1 of SARA.
Blanding's Turtle (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population)
Caribou (Eastern Migratory population)
Caribou (Torngat Mountains population)
Channel Darter (Lake Erie populations)
Channel Darter (Lake Ontario populations)
Chinook Salmon (Okanagan population)
Eastern Banded Tigersnail
Golden–eye Lichen (Great Lakes population)
Lake Sturgeon (Saskatchewan – Nelson River populations)
Caribou (Barren–ground population)
Coho Salmon (Interior Fraser population)
Mapleleaf (Saskatchewan – Nelson Rivers population)
Pygmy Whitefish (Great Lakes – Upper St. Lawrence populations)
Western Painted Turtle (Pacific Coast population)
Atlantic Walrus (Central / Low Arctic population)
Atlantic Walrus (High Arctic population)
Channel Darter (St. Lawrence populations)
Deepwater Sculpin (Waterton Lake population)
Golden–eye Lichen (Prairie / Boreal population)
Magdalen Islands Grasshopper
Mapleleaf (Great Lakes – Upper St. Lawrence population)
Pygmy Whitefish (Waterton Lake population)
Shortfin Mako (Atlantic population)
Transverse Lady Beetle
Information pertaining to the wildlife species assessed since the last annual report can be found on the SARA Public Registry - Species index.
For a copy of the assessment details for these wildlife species, including status assigned, reasons for designation (including uncertainties if applicable) and COSEWIC criteria with alphanumeric codes contact the COSEWIC Secretariat: email@example.com.
Status reports containing the information on which COSEWIC’s status assessments will be available on the SARA Public Registry at Species at Risk Public Registry.
As of April 2017, COSEWIC’s assessments include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern, and 23 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 16 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct.
As of April 2017, a total of 58 wildlife species have also been designated as Data Deficient and 186 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.
2 Important notes regarding status assessments
Section 27 of SARA states that the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order amend the List in accordance with subsections (1.1) and (1.2) by adding a wildlife species, by reclassifying a listed wildlife species or by removing a listed wildlife species, and the Minister may, by order, amend the List in a similar fashion in accordance with subsection (3).
During the period covered in this report COSEWIC did not inform the Minister about any details related to status assessments. It did however write and post one clarification note on
the SARA Public Registry. It was in response to a request from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to reconsider the designatable unit (DU) structure for Winter Skate.
3 Other wildlife species assessment activities
Section 29 of SARA provides for the listing of a wildlife species based on an imminent threat to the survival of the wildlife species under an emergency basis. Section 30 (1) of SARA states that COSEWIC is to prepare a status report on the wildlife species and, within one year after the making of the order, COSEWIC must, in a report in writing to the Minister,
- confirm the classification of the wildlife species;
- recommend to the Minister that the species be reclassified; or
- recommend to the Minister that the wildlife species be removed from the List.
During the period covered in this report COSEWIC did not receive any requests for Emergency Assessment.
4 Wildlife species assessments returned by the governor in council (gic) to COSEWIC for further information or consideration
Section 27 (1.1) (c) of SARA provides for the Governor in Council to, on the recommendation of the Minister, refer an assessment of the status of a wildlife species back to COSEWIC for further information or consideration.
During the period covered in this report no wildlife species were returned by (GIC) by COSEWIC.
5 Wildlife species selected for status report preparation
Section 15.1 (b) of SARA states that one of the functions of COSEWIC is to “determine when species are to be assessed, with priority given to those more likely to become extinct”.
Following COSEWIC's process for prioritizing new wildlife species for assessment, 14 wildlife species from COSEWIC's Species Specialist Subcommittees’ candidate lists were chosen by the Committee for status report commissioning in 2018. The following is a list of those prioritized candidate wildlife species:
|Taxonomic Group||Scientific Name||Common Name / Pop. name|
|1. Arthropods||Agrotis arenarius||[a moth]|
|2. Arthropods||Atlanticus davisi||Davis' Shieldback|
|3. Arthropods||Steiroxys strepens||Noisy Shieldback|
|4. Arthropods||Tricholochmaea sablensis||Sable Island Beetle|
|5. Birds||Catharus minimus minimus||Gray-cheeked Thrush minimus subspecies|
|6. Birds||Charadrius vociferus||Killdeer|
|7. Birds||Arenaria interpres morinella||Ruddy Turnstone, morinella subspecies|
|8. Fishes (freshwater)||Hybognathus hankinsoni||Brassy Minnow|
|9. Fishes (marine)||Oncorhynchus mykiss||Steelhead|
|10. Lichens||Heterodermia hypoleuca||Cupped Fringe Lichen|
|11. Lichens||Heterodermia squamulosa||Scaly Fringe Lichen|
|12. Mosses||Forsstroemia trichomitria||Fan Moss|
|13. Vascular Plants||Draba pycnosperma||Dense Draba|
|14. Vascular Plants||Cirsium scariosum||Meadow Thistle|
6 COSEWIC subcommittees
Section 18 (1) of SARA requires COSEWIC to establish subcommittees of specialists to assist in the preparation and review of status reports on wildlife species considered to be at risk, including subcommittees specializing in groups of wildlife species and a subcommittee specializing in aboriginal traditional knowledge.
Aboriginal traditional knowledge subcommittee
COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee is responsible for ensuring that Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) is appropriately accounted for in COSEWIC’s assessment process. The Subcommittee consists of members appointed by the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The Co-chairs of the ATK Subcommittee are members of COSEWIC and provide COSEWIC with their expertise on ATK.
The following is a summary of activities over this past year:
- Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Source or Assessment reports were prepared for the Bowhead Whale, Killer Whale, Northern Abalone, Gooseneck Barnacle, Bees and Berries, Short-eared Owl, Western Sage-grouse and Western Chorus Frog. These reports were prepared to inform wildlife species status assessments. Also, an ATK gap analysis was done on Lake Sturgeon. It provided the Subcommittee an opportunity to determine the gaps in certain regions for future reference. Subcommittee continues with plans related to an ATK gathering projects.
COSEWIC extends its sincere gratitude to the members of the ATK Subcommittee for their ongoing commitment to ensuring COSEWIC assessments are informed by the best available information.
Species specialist subcommittees
COSEWIC’s Species Specialists Subcommittees (SSCs) provide taxonomic expertise to the Committee. Each SSC is typically led by two Co-chairs and members are recognized Canadian experts in the taxonomic group in question, able to demonstrate high standards of education, experience, and expertise and have a demonstrated knowledge of wildlife conservation. Members are drawn from universities, provincial wildlife agencies, museums, Conservation Data Centres, and other sources of expertise on Canadian wildlife species. SSC members support the Co-chairs in developing candidate lists of wildlife species to be considered for assessment, commissioning status reports for priority wildlife species, reviewing reports for scientific accuracy and completeness, and proposing to COSEWIC a status for each wildlife species. Currently, COSEWIC has 10 SSCs: Amphibians and Reptiles, Arthropods, Birds, Freshwater Fishes, Marine Fishes, Marine Mammals, Molluscs, Mosses and Lichens, Terrestrial Mammals and Vascular Plants.
For more information please see:
SSC meetings take place annually in different locations in Canada or by teleconference held once or twice a year. Observers are invited to attend and public information sessions may also take place.
Aside from their continued work to ensure that high quality status reports are brought to each COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting, SSCs also periodically undertake special projects aimed at assisting the work of the SSCs. For example, the Freshwater Fishes SC initiated a cisco species flock analysis in the fall of 2014 to address the taxonomic challenges in this group of whitefishes. A larger Cisco Designatable Unit (DU) Special Report is planned for the coming year. The results of this Special DU report will be the basis for future cisco assessments as it relates to the pending Shortjaw Cisco, Upper Great Lakes Kiyi, and Blackfin Cisco status reports. A contract was issued to write this report and a draft report is expected by the end of 2017. The Marine Mammals SC commissioned a Beluga DU report which was approved by COSEWIC at its November 2016 meeting. A status report on those DUs will be prepared following a future call for bids. The Amphibians & Reptiles SC completed a special project to update the Amphibians and Reptiles Faunal Provinces map which was approved in principle by COSEWIC. Its adoption for new status reports is pending jurisdictional review and possible minor adjustments to faunal unit boundaries with any additional work to be carried out by COSEWIC.
COSEWIC is extremely grateful for the important work of the SSC members who provide their time and expertise on a volunteer basis.
7 COSEWIC operations and procedures
Section 19 of SARA states that COSEWIC “may make rules respecting the holding of meetings and the general conduct of its activities.”
COSEWIC is guided in its activities by an Operations & Procedures (O & P) Manual that is reviewed annually by COSEWIC’s O & P Subcommittee, who recommend any necessary changes to the Committee for their approval. During this reporting period, the COSEWIC O & P Manual was updated to reflect some minor changes in COSEWIC’s procedures. The most notable changes are as follows:
An updated Amphibians & Reptiles Faunal Provinces Map was approved in principle.
A Jurisdictional Subcommittee was established as a forum for all COSEWIC jurisdictional members to meet annually and discuss any common issues and potential solutions.
8 Procedural working groups
Section 18 (1) of SARA also allows COSEWIC to establish subcommittees to advise it or to exercise or perform any of its functions.
Procedural working groups are essential to ensuring COSEWICs operations and procedures are efficient, effective and clearly followed, thus maintaining the quality and consistency of COSEWIC status assessments and processes.
- Press Release Working Group
- This Working Group was active before and during each Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting on the production of each press release.
- Species Prioritization
- COSEWIC continues its work in using RAMAS software for its wildlife species prioritization process. RAMAS is a software package which applies the rules of the IUCN Red List Criteria to obtain an assessment, and also includes an algorithm for explicitly handling any data uncertainty.
- Dave Fraser, member from British Columbia, has been invaluable in chairing this Species Prioritization Working Group and in holding workshops to assist COSEWIC members and the Species Specialist Subcommittees in using this software for new candidate species.
- The working group is starting to have some initial discussions about a possible approach for dealing with the prioritization of reviews of classification for wildlife species. A report for discussion will be tabled for the November 2017 COSEWIC Wildlife Assessment Meeting.
- Species Bundling
- A regional ecosystem threats analysis was carried out for the South Okanagan. The report is currently being finalized by COSEWIC. The Co-chairs of Species Specialist Subcommittees were encouraged to coordinate their assessments and reassessments of species in the South Okanagan. Patrick Nantel, outgoing member of COSEWIC, chaired this working group and is thanked for his good work.
- IUCN Criteria and Climate Change
- A working group was struck to review/summarize the new IUCN guidelines relevant to COSEWIC with regard to climate change, with a view to offering suggestions to COSEWIC report writers and assessors. The working group is currently looking at the NatureServe vulnerability assessment, which includes Canadian models for climate change, and tracking further implications of IUCN guidance changes for COSEWIC assessments.
9 COSEWIC communications
Insofar as resources allow, COSEWIC and its Chairs over the years have made every effort to inform governments and the public on the work of the Committee.
During the current reporting period, COSEWIC released two press releases outlining the results of the Fall 2016 and the Spring 2017 Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings. These press releases can be found on the COSEWIC website.
In addition, the Chair of COSEWIC attended the following meetings /gave presentations on the work of COSEWIC etc.:
- Presentation to the Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee (CWDC) on COSEWIC. The Chair provided an update to the CWDC on COSEWIC activities. In particular, he noted the committee’s work towards using a more innovative and objective manner (i.e. species bundling, threats assessments etc.). He also reconfirmed the importance of jurisdictional participation on the committee.
- The Chair had a telephone meeting with two members of the Canadian Association of Forest Owners (May 2017) to explain the COSEWIC process and answer various questions. The members were very appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about COSEWIC.
- The Chair also met with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of ECCC (June 2017) to discuss various COSEWIC procedures and initiatives that COSEWIC is undertaking to improve species assessments.
Item II – COSEWIC membership
Section 16 of SARA states that
- COSEWIC is to be composed of members appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and with any experts and expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada, that the Minister considers to have relevant expertise.
- Each member must have expertise drawn from a discipline such as conservation biology, population dynamics, taxonomy, systematics or genetics or from community knowledge or aboriginal traditional knowledge of the conservation of wildlife species.
- The members are to be appointed to hold office for renewable terms of not more than four years.
1 Membership changes
For a current list of members on COSEWIC, please see the COSEWIC - Membership website.
Members from the Federal, Provincial or Territorial jurisdictions are recommended to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change by the jurisdiction.
The Co-chairs of the ATK Subcommittee are elected by the ATK Subcommittee membership and recommended to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change for appointment to COSEWIC. The Co-chairs and all ATK Subcommittee members are nominated by National Aboriginal Organizations with the exception of two of its members to be nominated by the ATK Subcommittee. Subcommittee members are appointed by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Species Specialist Subcommittee Co-chairs and Non-government Science Members are recommended to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change by COSEWIC following an in-depth review process.
A call for six Species Specialist Subcommittee Co-chairs was posted on the COSEWIC website between January 18 and February 15, 2017. Once the call was closed, Selection Committees comprised of both COSEWIC members and Species Specialist Subcommittee members evaluated the applications following procedures for member selection set out in COSEWIC’s O & P Manual. The Chairs of each Selection Committee prepared reports summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the applicants, which were discussed at the Spring 2017 Wildlife Species Assessment meeting. Candidates were ranked by COSEWIC members and their names and CVs were provided to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change in May 2017 for consideration of appointment. Members of CESCC were copied on this correspondence.
The ATK Subcommittee membership elected a new ATK Subcommittee Co-chair. The name and CV of the individual were provided to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change in June 2017 for consideration of appointment. Members of CESCC were copied on this correspondence.
Item III – Wildlife species assessments
In accordance with Section 25(1) of SARA when COSEWIC completes an assessment of the status of a wildlife species, it must provide the Minister and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council with a copy of the assessment and the reasons for it. A copy of the assessment must also be included on the public registry.
Information pertaining to the wildlife species assessed since the last annual report can be found on the SARA Public Registry - Species Index website.
For a copy of the assessment details for these species, including status assigned, reasons for designation (including uncertainties if applicable) and COSEWIC criteria with alphanumeric codes contact the COSEWIC Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The status reports will be available in English and French on the Species at Risk Public Registry.
Item IV – Wildife species assessed by COSEWIC since its inception
In accordance with Section 25(2) of SARA, COSEWIC must annually prepare a complete list of every wildlife species it has assessed since the coming into force of that section and a copy of that list must be included in the public registry.
The Canadian Species at Risk publication is available on the ‘Species at Risk Public Registry'.
It includes all wildlife species assessed by COSEWIC since its inception up to and including October 2017.
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