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News Release


Ottawa, November 28, 2003

At the first meeting of COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) since the passage of SARA (Species At Risk Act), the committee members reviewed the conservation status of 23 species.

The Steller Sea Lion was designated as a species of Special Concern because of the small number of breeding sites, as well as its susceptibility to human disturbance and oil spills. This species occurs on islands off the coast of British Columbia. In the past, Steller Sea Lion populations were reduced by intensive culls intended to reduce predation on fish. These programmes were discontinued in the 1950s, and populations now show some increase. One breeding group in British Columbia was driven to extinction and overall populations remain below historic levels (early 1900s). Steller Sea Lions are threatened or endangered elsewhere in their range (United States and Russia).

The White Sturgeon, the largest freshwater fish in Canada, was designated as Endangered. In Canada, this species only occurs in British Columbia where several populations are in decline. The great scarcity of fish younger than 30-40 years in most rivers suggests that few young are surviving. Long life span and small populations make White Sturgeon extremely vulnerable to any harvest and habitat degradation such as caused by dams. An additional threat to this species is the black market demand for their meat and roe (caviar).

On the Prairies, two species of butterflies (the Dakota Skipper and the Poweshiek Skipperling) were designated as Threatened. Both species depend on remnant prairie habitats and are threatened by prescribed burns, fragmentation of their grassland habitats and the timing of haying.

Butternut, a relatively short-lived tree occurring in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, was designated as Endangered. Butternut produces edible nuts and is of special importance to many Aboriginal Peoples. The tree is widespread and infrequent but is widely impacted by an exotic disease (the Butternut Canker) that is spreading rapidly. “In this meeting, we examined four status reports on species for which COSEWIC concluded that the information was not sufficient to assign status. More resources must be invested in the study of Canada’s flora and fauna to provide decision makers and planners with adequate information for effective conservation” said Dr. Marco Festa- Bianchet, Chair of COSEWIC.

Limitations imposed by a lack of information have important repercussions for assessment. For example, in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the rare Squat Duskysnail is known from a small number of scattered localities and was considered to be Data Deficient. Little is known about how widespread it is or the numbers of these snails in Canadian streams and lakes.

In coastal British Columbia, Keen’s Long-eared Bat has a wide range but may depend on old growth forest. The bat is rarely recorded and difficult to sample. Lack of information about its population size and the difficulty of identifying this species led to its designation as Data Deficient.

There are now 441 species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 160 Endangered, 108 Threatened, and 140 of Special Concern. In addition, 21 species are Extirpated (no longer found in the wild in Canada), 12 are Extinct, and 32 are Data Deficient.

COSEWIC’s assessments will be forwarded to the federal Minister of the Environment and will form the basis for inclusion in the legal list of species at risk under the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biosystematics Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three non-jurisdictional members and the co-chairs of the species specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittees.

Definition of COSEWIC terms and risk categories
  • Species :
  • Any indigenous species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of wild fauna and flora.
  • Extinct : A species that no longer exists.
  • Extirpated : A species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.
  • Endangered : A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
  • Threatened : A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
  • Special Concern : A species of special concern because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.
  • Not at Risk : A species that has been evaluated and found not to be at risk.
  • Data Deficient : A species for which there is insufficient scientific information to support status designation.

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For further information, contact:

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet

General inquiries:
COSEWIC Secretariat
(819) 953-3215


For inquiries on the Stellar Sea Lion:

Dr. Andrew Trites
Co-chair, Marine Mammals
Specialist Sub-committee
(604) 822-8181
(604) 318-6357

For inquiries on the White Sturgeon:

Dr. Robert Campbell
Co-chair, Freshwater Fishes
Specialist Sub-committee
(613) 987-5367


For inquiries on the butterflies:

Dr. Theresa Fowler
Co-chair, Arthropods
Specialist Sub-committee
(819) 953-6402

For inquiries on the Butternut:

Dr. Erich Haber
Co-chair, Plants and Lichens
Specialist Sub-committee
(613) 722-5523


For inquiries on the Squat Duskysnail:

Dr. Gerald Mackie
Co-chair, Molluscs
Specialist Sub-committee
(519) 824-4120 ext. 3505

For inquiries on the Keen's Long-eared Bat:

Dr. Brock Fenton
Co-chair, Terrestrial Mammals
Specialist Sub-committee
(416) 736-2100 ext. 22664

Further details on the species assessed, and the reasons behind each designation, can be found on the COSEWIC website at: