Regulations Amending the Migratory Birds Regulations
A review of the potential impacts of amendments to Schedule 1 of the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) to create conditions for the sustainable harvest of migratory game bird populations and to provide tools that enable hunters to assist in population control of overabundant species as published in the Canada Gazette.
Periodic revisions to the MBR by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) are necessary to meet Canada's international obligations under the Migratory Birds Convention, 1916 and also to address Canada's obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity to ensure that the species are not jeopardized by over-hunting.
More than 450 native bird species regularly make use of Canada's natural and human-modified landscapes for at least part of their annual cycle. Most of these species are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and are collectively referred to as “migratory birds”.
The Government of Canada, through ECCC, is responsible for the conservation of migratory birds in Canada and the management of the sustainable hunting of these birds. Biologists from ECCC Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) meet with their provincial and territorial counterparts in technical committees in the fall prior to amending the hunting provisions of the MBR to discuss new information on the status of migratory game bird populations and, where necessary, propose regulatory changes. The work of the technical committees, as well as information received from migratory game bird hunters and non-government organizations, led to the development of these specific regulatory amendments. During each biennial amendment cycle, ECCC releases a consultation report entitled Proposals to Amend the Canadian Migratory Birds Regulations to facilitate transparency in decision-making, and to provide an opportunity for interested parties to provide input into the development of amendments to the hunting provisions of the MBR. In addition, individual hunters play an important role in the adjustment of these regulations. Hunters provide information about their hunting, particularly the species and number of migratory game birds harvested, through their participation in the National Harvest Survey and the Species Composition Survey. The information collected through these surveys is very important to biologists and wildlife managers and plays a crucial role in updating the hunting provisions of the MBR.
Changes in bird population status, including both decreases and increases, could have a negative impact on the species, the environment, and the economy. The objective of the hunting provisions of the MBR is to ensure that birds remain abundant in their natural habitats by establishing hunting seasons, daily bag and possession limits for each species. For some species, changes to the regulations are required to provide for the conservation of the population and a sustained hunt in the future. For other species, increased hunting pressure could slow rapid population growth and reduce the negative effect on their breeding habitat. Therefore, regular amendments to the hunting provisions of the MBR are needed to help maintain a sustainable harvest of migratory game bird populations.
The key amendments and the main potential outcomes of this proposal are the following:
Black Duck and Mallard
- The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy recommends to continue to implement a liberal regulatory harvest regime for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 hunting seasons. In consequences, no changes are proposed to the Black Duck daily bag limit in the Maritimes, Québec and Ontario.
This recommendation is based on long-term trends in Black Duck and Mallard breeding populations in eastern Canada as well as the estimated effects of hunting on Black Duck populations. Mallards are included because this species hybridizes and competes with Black Ducks on the breeding grounds and may therefore negatively affect the Black Duck population. According to data collected by the CWS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the current level of harvest has only a low effect on population levels. The liberal package is therefore the optimal alternative.
Snow Geese and Ross's Geese
The special conservation measures for Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese to be implemented in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 hunting seasons as well as the 2021 and 2022 spring conservation seasons are as follows:
- allow the harvest of Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese during the late winter Canada Goose/Cackling Goose season in Ontario
- expand the geographical extent of the Spring Special Conservation Measures in Ontario to include three new areas
- increase the daily bag limit for Snow Geese and Ross' Geese in Nunavut in the portion of the islands and waters of James Bay rather than limiting daily harvest in any one portion of the Territory.
Due to habitat damage resulting from foraging activities, Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese were designated as overabundant species. Geese using the islands and waters of James Bay are from the midcontinent population of Lesser Snow Geese which has continued to increase despite the implementation of more liberalized bag and possession limits.
It is also proposed to designate Temperate-breeding Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) as overabundant in southern Manitoba, and establish a spring conservation season in Game Bird Hunting Zones 3 and 4 from March 1 to March 31, beginning in 2021. The proposed conservation season would be open to resident and non-residents of Canada, with a daily bag limit of 8 per day, and possession limit of 24. Recorded bird calls of Canada Geese would be allowed throughout the spring conservation season.
Temperate-breeding Canada Geese have increased substantially since the 1970s and have caused a variety of conflicts with humans. Canada Geese are involved in car collisions, damage grass and other plants and compress or erode soil in urban parks, golf courses and other green spaces. Goose droppings foul footpaths, docks, beaches and private lawns may contribute to contamination of nearby water with parasites and coliform bacteria. In agricultural lands, they can cause serious damage to crops. The uncontrolled increasing number of individuals would contribute to increasing conflicts with humans. In consequences, it is proposed to designate temperate-breeding Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) as overabundant in southern Manitoba, and establish a spring conservation season in Game Bird Hunting Zones from March 1 to March 31, beginning in 2021.
By controlling overabundant species, these amendments will help to reduce economic losses from crop damage, and ensure that these benefits are sustained into the future. Risks including environmental risks associated with increasing harvest of overabundant species by hunters are minimal, while the costs of not intervening could be considerable.
The implementation of the amendments to the provisions of the MBR relating to hunting of migratory birds will have significant positive environmental and socio-economic effects and will contribute to Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals and the environmentally-related 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including notably:
- Heathy wildlife populations: by enabling species population control that will reduce stress from those overabundant species toward other less abundant or at-risk species competing for the same space. The proposal will also contribute to SDG 15 Life on Land.
- Healthy coast and oceans: by ensuring that coasts and oceans are able to support healthy, resilient and productive ecosystems and maintaining sustainable fishing bird populations in regard to the fish resources and habitat degradation. The proposal will also contribute to SDG 14 Life Below Water.
- Pristine lakes and rivers by: ensuring that clean and healthy lakes and rivers support economic prosperity and the well-being of Canadians and controlling overabundant bird species that can contaminate lakes and drinkable sources of water through feces or carry invasive algae in their feathers. The proposal will also contribute to SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation.
- Sustainability managed lands and forests: by ensuring that lands and forests support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come.
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