The Government of Canada protects Species at Risk habitat
Ottawa, Ontario – The Government of Canada is dedicated to the protection of species at risk and their habitat from coast to coast to coast and is taking action to ensure their recovery.
The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Dominic LeBlanc has today signed eight Critical Habitat Orders under the Species at Risk Act. The approved orders will allow for further protection of eight at-risk species, this includes two whales – the North Atlantic Right Whale and Beluga Whale of the St. Lawrence Estuary, as well as, three fish species – Spotted Gar, Eastern Sand Darter (Ontario populations); Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Eastslope populations) – and one mollusc species, Northern Abalone. Minister LeBlanc has also approved the Proposed Critical Habitat Orders of the Northern Bottlenose Whale, Scotian Shelf population and the Lake Chubsucker, a fish species.
A Critical Habitat Order focuses on protecting specific geographic locations and conditions essential for the survival and recovery of the species, such as where they give birth, hatch, feed or raise their young. Proposed activities in areas of designated as critical habitat must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may require a permit before proceeding to ensure that the proposed activity will not jeopardize the species. A Critical Habitat Order prohibits human activities that may destroy the defined critical habitat of an at risk species.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is especially concerned about the plight of the North Atlantic Right Whale following multiple mortalities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the summer of 2017. The Critical Habitat Order approved today for the North Atlantic Right Whale will provide protection for the whale’s critical habitat in the Grand Manan Basin (Bay of Fundy) and the Roseway Basin (off Southwestern Nova Scotia).
An increasing number of North Atlantic Right Whales have appeared in the Gulf and DFO is continuing to take every measure to protect this iconic species, this includes determining what steps need to be taken, in consultation with Indigenous groups, scientists, fishing groups and other stakeholders, to protect the North Atlantic Right Whales found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
To find more permanent solutions to the recent deaths of North Atlantic right whales in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Minister LeBlanc has instructed officials to act as swiftly as possible to update identified critical habitat when emerging issues and environmental changes arise, such as to account for changing population distributions as a result of climate change. The Government of Canada is committed to continuing to work with scientific experts, industry, environmental groups, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This might include further research, additional vessel avoidance measures, increased reporting, modifications to fishing gear, and changes to fishing practices. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are protected for future generations.
The Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan also includes important steps to address threats to marine mammals. Some of these steps include taking action to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping and noise and increasing the number of Fishery Officers to help with incident responses. A review of current management and recovery actions under OPP for three whale species: the Beluga Whale of the St. Lawrence Estuary, the Southern Resident Killer Whale and the North Atlantic Right Whale has now been completed. It is expected that future actions resulting from this review will also benefit other whale species as well as marine ecosystems as a whole.
“The protection of aquatic species is a priority for our government and we are taking action to make sure that the habitats they need to thrive and survive are available and remain healthy. By working together with Canadians, we can decrease the number of species at risk in our country while maintaining our rich and diverse marine environment.”
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
The proposed Critical Habitat Orders for the Northern Bottlenose Whale and the Lake Chubsucker will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on December 16, 2017 and the public will have 30 days to comment.
The Orders protecting the critical habitat of the other six species have already been the subject of public consultations and will come into force when published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on December 13, 2017.
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