The assessment of 52 wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in November has highlighted a need for more attention to our species at risk.
After five to 10 years since their previous assessment, COSEWIC reassessed 32 species and found that only four are less at risk today. The Committee deemed two of the four to be less at risk simply because they found more individuals after surveying a larger area. In many cases, there was little to no new information available on these species, indicating that greater effort must be put into research and monitoring.
The Committee also established the status of 16 populations of Atlantic salmon covering the entire Canadian range of the species. According to COSEWIC, Atlantic salmon have suffered significant declines at the southern end of their range in Canada. One population in southern Newfoundland was designated as Threatened; five populations in the Bay of Fundy, outer coast of Nova Scotia and Anticosti Island were designated as Endangered; and the Lake Ontario population was assessed as extinct, lost to Canadian waters forever.
COSEWIC produced an excellent assessment report that is sure to form the basis for future efforts to conserve this iconic species. However, they didn’t do it on their own. DFO research formed a large part of the basis for the assessment, and CWF hopes that this departmental support will translate into a legal listing of this fish species under the Species at Risk Act. Listing the species would likely increase the resources available to aid in the recovery of the Atlantic salmon, a species that is currently managed under the Fisheries Act.
A Hostile Takeover
The COSEWIC assessments also highlighted the fact that invasive plant species continue to be a significant threat to biodiversity in Canada. Three plant species were reassessed as highly at risk due to the threat posed by invasive plants such as garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).
But plants aren’t the only species that worm their way into a habitat and take over. The invasive zebra mussel has infiltrated the Okanagan Lake basin, threatening the Rocky Mountain ridged mussel – so much so that COSEWIC upgraded the native mussel’s status from of Special Concern to Endangered.