Extinction risk rises for cod, other species
Atlantic cod, a type of bumble bee and a pair of fish should be added to Canada's list of endangered species, according to a federal committee that tracks hundreds of wildlife species at risk in the country.
Decades of unsustainable harvesting have depleted Canada's cod populations, three of which have declined 90 per cent or more since the 1960s, according to a spring report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Scientists have been assessing Atlantic cod stocks since 1998, and they're at their lowest levels in Canadian history.
"There are populations that are continuing to decline in the absence of fishing and that's mainly because we had previously knocked the populations down so far that other factors in the ecosystems are taking over," said Jeff Hutchings, the committee chair.
Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said she wanted to read the report before commenting.
But Liberal fisheries critic Gerry Byrne said he was skeptical of the new assessment, saying fishermen often have a different view.
The committee, which met last month to assess 51 species at risk, also said the rusty-patched bumble bee should be listed as endangered. Its rapid decline remains a mystery, but some contributing factors could be pesticides, disease and a loss of habitat, the committee said.
Other species that should be listed on the endangered species list include:
- 11 species of freshwater mussels in southern Ontario.
- Two unique forms of threespine stickleback fish on B.C.'s Texada Island.
The committee said global warming is a contributing factor to the loss of habitat for the flammulated owl, which depends on the mature coniferous forests of B.C.'s Interior. The small bird was assessed as a special concern.
The committee's report had some good news. The whooping crane, which breeds in Alberta, has come back from the brink of extinction. In 1938, there were 14 birds and there are now no fewer than 250.
Hutchings says that's proof that money spent on saving habitats pay off.
"This is not the time to take money away from species at risk," he said. "This is the time to put more money in to understand the biodiversity of Canada."
The committee said 602 wildlife species are in various risk categories, including 262 endangered, 151 threatened, 166 special concern, and 23 extirpated (no longer found in the Canadian wild).
Thirteen wildlife species are extinct.
The committee's current assessment will be submitted to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice in late summer for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act.