The Government of Canada boosts efforts to protect Aquatic Species at Risk

News Release

Ottawa, Ontario – The Government of Canada takes the protection of species at risk seriously and is committed to protecting this country’s wildlife for our benefit and the benefit of generations to come.

Today, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced that nine more aquatic species will receive protection under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). These species to be listed, for the first time, under SARA include five freshwater fishes, two marine mammals, one sea turtle and one mollusc. 

In addition, the St Lawrence Estuary population of Beluga whale will be reclassified from Threatened to Endangered following a reassessment in recent years by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The Leatherback Sea Turtle will be separated into two population units – the Atlantic population and the Pacific population. Both will remain listed as Endangered under SARA and ongoing protection and recovery activities will continue.

The species to be protected or reclassified were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on May 3rd 2017.‎

SARA governs actions to prevent the extinction of wildlife species and to secure the necessary actions for the recovery of species at risk.

Decisions to protect species under the Act are based on many considerations including assessments by COSEWIC and other scientific advice, extensive consultations with Canadians, Indigenous groups and industry and after an evaluation of the potential socio-economic impacts on communities.

Not all species identified by COSEWIC are listed under SARA.  Aquatic species can also be conferred protection under the Fisheries Act, the Oceans Act, the Canada National Parks Act, as well as a number of provincial, territorial and municipal legislative tools and other non-legislative tools.‎

Species added to Schedule 1 of SARA:


Marine Mammals



Species Reclassified:

Species divided into two units:

In addition, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and the Yellowmouth Rockfish will receive specific protections under the Fisheries Act.‎

The Aurora Trout was delisted as it has been found to be genetically indistinguishable from the Brook Trout.


“Our government is committed to protecting species at risk across the country. We know Canadians are counting on us to act on scientific advice and the concerns of communities to ensure that species at risk are around for the children of today, tomorrow and beyond. It is up to all of us to protect species at risk and ensure their recovery.”

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act in 2002 to provide a legal framework for wildlife species management, protection and recovery.

  • Currently, there are 125 aquatic species protected under the Act.

  • COSEWIC is an independent committee that identifies species at risk and is made up of wildlife experts and scientists from federal, provincial and territorial governments, universities, and non-government organizations.

  • Once a species is listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Species at Risk Act, a recovery strategy will be developed, followed by one or more action plans. For species of special concern, management plans will be developed.

Associated Links


Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Laura Gareau
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada


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