CWF Urges Canada to Take Lead Role in Conserving Species at Risk

OTTAWA, May 10 /CNW/ - The Canadian Wildlife Federation supports the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada's (COSEWIC) recent assessment of 40 wildlife species and expects provincial and federal governments to continue their work to prevent the loss of native species in Canada.

Of the 22 re-assessments, the risk status of three species increased (Northern bottlenose whales of Davis Straight, silver shiner and two populations of spring salamanders; Carolinian and Appalachian). Encouragingly, the risk status of two species was reduced from Threatened to Special Concern; several more populations of Lyall's Mariposa Lily were recently found and the Pacific population of humpback whales has been increasing since commercial whaling was halted.

Human activities continue to be the main factor placing species at-risk. Direct human harvesting and eradication are the primary reasons for population declines of several aquatic species such as Atlantic bluefin tuna, silver lamprey, Atlantic sturgeon and the Olympia oyster. COSEWIC designated the Atlantic bluefin tuna as Endangered.  It is now up to the federal government to work to conserve the species and to decide whether to protect the species under the Species at Risk Act.  International efforts to restrict the harvest of Atlantic bluefin tuna failed last year, partly due to the position taken by the government of Canada during the negotiations.  "This majestic fish may be lost entirely if governments and resource users are unable to come to an agreement on how to recover the population," says David Browne, CWF Director of Conservation  "CWF will be advocating that Canada take a leadership role in efforts to conserve the species."

Changes to habitat, particularly urbanization, continue to pose a threat to many of the assessed species through loss of important grassland, stream and wetland habitat.  Strong regulations, habitat protection, and effective stewardship by industry and individuals are critical to stopping the decline of many species at risk. CWF's Endangered Species Program supports such efforts through research, funding, education and advocacy.  CWF works with landowners to improve habitat on existing urban lands through programs such as its Backyard Habitat Program which encourages Canadians to grow wildlife friendly, native plant gardens. 

One area of significant concern is that two assessed species have had large declines in their populations for reasons that are not entirely known. Barn swallows are birds commonly known to many Canadians, but their population has mysteriously and steeply declined in recent years. The barn swallow is now assessed as Threatened. Similar declines are occurring in other species of birds that eat flying insects, such as the chimney swift already designated as Threatened in Canada. Populations of eulachon, a small, once-abundant anadromous fish on the west coast of Canada have declined as much as 98 percent in the last decade. These energy-rich fish are of considerable importance to local wildlife, coastal communities and First Nations but the reasons for their significant population declines are unknown. Two of the eulachon populations were assessed as Endangered and the northern population, which has had a less severe decline, was assessed as Threatened. According to Sean Brillant, CWF Marine Program Manager, "the need for knowledge and research is never more necessary than for those cases where we have no idea why populations are dropping."

CWF has been working to help address this need. Over the last two years, CWF has provided over $1million in funding to Canadian researchers working on species at risk. Some species currently being studied with this support include the newly reassessed Oregon spotted frog and Olympia oyster.

As one of the original members involved in forming COSEWIC in 1977, CWF remains committed to assisting in the research and conservation of Canadian wildlife and to increasing the awareness and education of Canadians about the value of these species.

"Canada's wildlife is a part of our national heritage and a part of the world's heritage. The excellent work of COSEWIC, with support from the Government of Canada, is evidence of the value that Canadians place on protecting this heritage," says Browne.

About the Canadian Wildlife Federation:
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, sponsoring research, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending legislative changes and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. Visit for more information.


For further information:

Contacts: April Overall, CWF Communications,
(613) 599-9594 ext. 227

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