Canada Classifies Beluga Whale Population As Endangered

The St. Lawrence Estuary population of Beluga whales will be reclassified from threatened to endangered following a reassessment in recent years by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

The Government of Canada announced May 3 that nine more aquatic species will be protected under the country's Species at Risk Act, with these species listed for the first time under the law. They include five freshwater fishes, two marine mammals (Beluga whales and harbour seals), one sea turtle, and one mollusk, said Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Also, the St. Lawrence Estuary population of Beluga whales will be reclassified from threatened to endangered following a reassessment in recent years by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and the Leatherback Sea Turtle will be separated into two population units – the Atlantic population and the Pacific population. Both will continue to be listed as endangered under the law.

Not all species identified by COSEWIC are listed under SARA; aquatic species can be given protection under the Fisheries Act, the Oceans Act, the Canada National Parks Act, and provincial, territorial, and municipal legislative tools.‎

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and the Yellowmouth Rockfish will receive specific protections under the Fisheries Act; the Aurora Trout was delisted because it has been found to be genetically indistinguishable from the Brook Trout.

"Our government is committed to protecting species at risk across the country. We know Canadians are counting on us to act on scientific advice and the concerns of communities to ensure that species at risk are around for the children of today, tomorrow, and beyond. It is up to all of us to protect species at risk and ensure their recovery," said LeBlanc.

The SARA law was enacted in 2002 and currently mandates the protection of 125 aquatic species.

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