Government of Canada takes steps to protect Aquatic Species at Risk

News release

March 25, 2019

Ottawa, Ontario - Canada’s natural environment and wildlife are at the core of our national identity. Biodiversity is the cornerstone of our way of life - the health of the natural environment supports our culture, our well-being and our economy. Unfortunately, some of the species in our waters, rivers, lakes and estuaries are at risk and need our collective help to ensure their survival for future generations. We must take urgent, collective action to protect them.

That’s why the Government of Canada is committed to reversing the decline of Canada’s wildlife and biodiversity and takes the protection of species at risk seriously.

The Government of Canada works with all Canadians to protect endangered or threatened species and their habitat under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that the Government of Canada has proposed, consistent with scientific advice, that 32 aquatic species be added to or reclassified under SARA. These species include 23 freshwater fishes and nine molluscs.   

As well, the Minister proposed the Shortfin Mako shark, designated as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), for reconsideration based on information that was not available at the time COSEWIC assessed its status.

The status of several species has improved and the Government of Canada is proposing to reclassify these species to a lower risk category. These species are: Pugnose Shiner, Salish Sucker, Striped Bass (St. Lawrence River), Mapleleaf (Saskatchewan-Nelson Rivers), Mapleleaf (Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence), Rainbow, and Eastern Pondmussel. Unfortunately, several other species have been found in worse condition, or were newly identified as being at risk.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change will consider comments and any additional information received. Decisions to protect species under SARA are based on many considerations including assessments by COSEWIC and other scientific advice, consultations with Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and Communities, and industry and an evaluation of the potential socio-economic impacts on communities.

Species added to or reclassified on Schedule 1 of SARA:


  • Rainbow Trout (Athabasca River)   
  • Rainbow Smelt (Lake Utopia large - bodied)
  • Silver Shiner
  • Plains Minnow
  • Bull Trout (Saskatchewan - Nelson Rivers)
  • Black Redhorse
  • Lake Sturgeon (Southern Hudson Bay - James Bay)
  • Silver Lamprey (Great Lakes - Upper St. Lawrence)
  • Bull Trout (Western Arctic)
  • Bull Trout (South Coast British Columbia)
  • Cutlip Minnow
  • Unarmoured Threespine Stickleback
  • Giant Threespine Stickleback
  • Northern Sunfish (Great Lakes - Upper St. Lawrence)
  • Striped Bass (St. Lawrence River)
  • Spotted Gar
  • Pugnose Minnow
  • Pugnose Shiner
  • Salish Sucker
  • Channel Darter (Lake Ontario)
  • Channel Darter (Lake Erie)
  • Channel Darter (St. Lawrence)
  • Silver Chub (Great Lakes - Upper St. Lawrence)


  • Fawnsfoot
  • Hickorynut
  • Lilliput
  • Threehorn Wartyback
  • Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel
  • Mapleleaf (Saskatchewan - Nelson River)
  • Mapleleaf (Great Lakes - Upper St. Lawrence)
  • Rainbow
  • Eastern Pondmussel


“The protection of aquatic species is a priority for the Government of Canada. We are taking action based on scientific advice and the concerns of communities to protect endangered species. By working together with Canadians, we can increase the likelihood that species at risk will survive and recover while maintaining our rich and diverse marine environment.”

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

Quick facts

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

  • Currently, there are 120 aquatic species protected under SARA.

  • COSEWIC is an independent committee that identifies and designates 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.

  • The species proposed for listing or reclassification were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on March 23, 2019.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

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