Migratory Birds Regulations – biennial hunting amendments

Key findings from the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) conducted for the Regulations Amending the Migratory Birds Regulations (Biennial Hunting Amendments).

More than 450 native bird species regularly make use of Canada's landscapes for at least part of their annual cycle. Most of these species are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA) and the associated Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022 (MBR 2022), and are collectively referred to as migratory birds. The Government of Canada, through Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), is responsible for the conservation of migratory birds in Canada and the management of the sustainable hunting of these birds. ECCC’s migratory bird conservation and management work helps Canada meet its international obligations under the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in the United States and Canada and to address Canada's obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Regular amendments are needed to the MBR to ensure a sustainable harvest of migratory game bird populations and a sound management of overabundant species in order to mitigate their negative impacts on wildlife, the environment, and the safety and economy of human communities. ECCC has a national consultation process involving biologists, provincial and territorial governments, hunters and other interested parties, which plays a crucial role in updating the hunting provisions of the MBR.

The key amendments made to the MBR 2022 are the following:

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a SEA was conducted for the amendments. The SEA concluded that the amendments would have positive environmental effects. For example, the amendments are expected to support the 2019-2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goal “Healthy Wildlife Populations” by enabling species population control that will reduce stress from various geese species with population sizes above their acceptable range toward other less abundant or at-risk species competing for the same space. The amendments support FSDS goal “Sustainably Managed Lands and Forests” by reducing the impact of geese on landscapes. Maintaining a sustainable population of migratory birds helps ensuring that lands, such as the agricultural lands where species migrate and the artic tundra where some species breed, support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come. Both of the preceding outcomes will contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 - Life on Land. The amendments also support FSDS goal “Pristine Lakes and Rivers” and SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation by controlling numbers of geese that can contaminate lakes and drinkable sources of water through feces or by carrying invasive algae in their feathers. Finally, modifications to MBR 2022 support FSDS goal “Greening Government” and SDG 12 - Responsible Production and Consumption through the adoption of paperless technology in the procurement of goods and services via further uptake of the MGBH e-permit system, as well as reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the production and distribution of the physical MGBH permit.

The expected socio-economic impacts resulting from the environmental effects of maintaining sustainable migratory bird populations include direct economic benefits of hunting, mainly resulting from the purchase of outdoor and hunting equipment, and travel expenses. Indirect economic benefits include gains in agricultural land productivity and reduced damage from overabundant migratory birds.  Impacts of environmental effects on human health include a sense of well-being by those who derive value out of migratory birds for non-economic reasons, such as cultural significance.

The monitoring of the status of migratory game birds will continue to be conducted every year based on harvest data provided by hunters, estimates and trends of annual survival and harvest rates, and on the analysis of long-term population trends. Follow-up reports on the population status of migratory game birds will be published on a biennial basis through the Migratory Birds Regulatory Reports Series. Hunting provisions are updated every two years to ensure the sustainable harvest of migratory game birds, while staying aligned with the FSDS goals and targets.

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