Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022 – modernization

Key findings from the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) conducted for the modernized Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022 (MBR 2022).

The Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) serve two main objectives:

Since being enacted in 1918, the MBR have been amended many times, often with isolated changes or fixes being made to deal with specific issues. They have never been subject to a comprehensive review. As a result, the regulatory text and structure, which contained errors and inconsistencies, were complex, outdated, lacked clarity and did not meet current legal standards. These issues in turn led to difficulty in the interpretation of the MBR, in their application, in ensuring stakeholder compliance, and in their enforcement.

In 1995, the Migratory Birds Convention was amended by what is known in Canada as the Parksville Protocol (the Protocol). Among other things, the Protocol recognized the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal people of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, with respect to harvesting migratory birds and their eggs. The provisions in the Protocol had not yet been implemented into the MBR.

The MBR were not in line with many of the departmental policy directions, particularly in the area of migratory game bird hunting management as well as nest protection. As a result, many issues and concerns had been repeatedly raised by stakeholders including:

Therefore, the modernized MBR 2022 support the following key outcomes:

The MBR 2022 are expected to provide modest direct and indirect benefits to the environment. Clarifying that the main purpose of the harvest of migratory game birds is for human consumption, as well as prohibiting the abandonment of harvested birds, helps to ensure that daily bag and possession limits are respected, which supports sustainable harvest levels. The introduction of the Migratory Game Bird Hunting (MGBH) permit for youth (under 18 years of age) allows for increased collection of harvest data for this demographic and contributes to a more effective assessment of the status of migratory game bird populations in Canada, their productivity, survival rates, and amount of harvest they can sustain. Measures introduced for murres, including restrictions on third-party possession, may contribute to reducing the illegal commercialization of the murre harvest. The creation of a Charity permit is expected to result in less waste of migratory game birds, and offers the possibility of generating funds for wildlife conservation. Making the change from all migratory bird nests being protected at all times, to providing protection when the nests are of conservation value to migratory birds, is an important clarification and adds regulatory certainty and flexibility for stakeholders, which may have positive effects on stakeholder compliance, and could lead to the encouragement of bird-friendly designs for more human-made structures.

The environmental outcomes expected to result from the MBR 2022 are anticipated to contribute positively to the following 2019-2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals and targets and United Nations’ 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Healthy Wildlife Populations and SDG 15 – Life on Land

Clarifying the prohibitions to protect migratory birds, while adding regulatory certainty and flexibility for nest protection/destruction, is anticipated to provide improved long-term conservation of migratory bird populations. Implementing updated policy direction will help to effectively manage activities that impact migratory birds, such as migratory game bird hunting, while ensuring that the activity continues to be sustainable for migratory bird populations.

Effective Action on Climate Change and SDG 13 – Climate Action

Climate change represents a potentially major threat to biodiversity, including migratory birds. These threats could be in many forms, such as changing or disappearing habitat, or a change in abundance, timing and distribution of food, as well as changes in weather patterns and more severe weather events. Although the MBR 2022 are not directly related to the FSDS goal of Effective Action on Climate Change, improving the regulations will facilitate the effective management of migratory birds, and will have a modest positive impact beyond the previous MBR in protecting migratory birds and enabling viable populations, which could in turn help in making migratory bird species more resilient to the threats of climate change.

Connecting Canadians with Nature and SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

The MBR 2022 are anticipated to result in several benefits to society and culture, which would in turn benefit human health through a more frequent and more accessible connection with nature. For instance, the gifting of feathers for educational, social, cultural or spiritual purposes will satisfy a long-term request from stakeholders to be able to fully use birds taken under a migratory bird permit for these purposes. The implementation of new provisions will facilitate the effective practice of migratory bird hunting in Canada, which is an important activity to Canadian society and culture, and provides sustainable economic benefits across the country. Offering the MGBH permit to youth free of charge could result in increased recruitment of new young waterfowl hunters, which would aid in the continuation of this important outdoor activity, whose participants are known to actively contribute to the conservation of wildlife and habitat. The addition of the Charity permit is a benefit to society as it provides a new opportunity to help those that are in need by being able to gift preserved migratory birds to food banks and soup kitchens.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) will continue to work with partners (provinces/territories, conservation organizations, public) in monitoring the population status of migratory birds in Canada. Reporting on population trends of migratory birds will continue to be developed and published on the Government of Canada website.

The compliance promotion strategy and plan will be reviewed by the Canadian Wildlife Service of ECCC two years after the implementation of the MBR 2022. Rates of compliance and types of infractions will also be reviewed by ECCC’s Wildlife Enforcement. These reviews will determine if additional or different compliance promotion activities need to be conducted.

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