|Threatened and Endangered Species
However, key weaknesses in the Act, exacerbated by shallow federal implementation, have reduced the Act’s effectiveness in four ways.
1. The legal species at risk list grows more political and less scientific each year.
Endangered species are denied listing under SARA, contrary to the Act’s purposes.
The listing process under SARA is overburdened with socioeconomic
Science-based listing—the principle that listing of species at risk must be based exclusively on scientific, community and traditional knowledge—is the foundation of effective endangered species legislation. Federal obligation to justify any listing denials was intended to keep the process science-based. Unfortunately, the federal government has boldly used its discretion to deny protection to more endangered species each year.
In March 2004, the federal government burdened the listing process with cost-benefit analyses and major public consultations not required by law. One month later, it refused COSEWIC’s emergency designations for two endangered BC sockeye salmon populations.
In April 2006, it refused to list 10 of 12 COSEWIC-designated species, including 6 returned to COSEWIC for further consideration, and 4—three populations of Atlantic cod and the Interior Fraser River coho salmon—outright denied legal listing.
Federal justifications for these decisions imply that species will be listed under SARA only if listing is inconsequential: the northern bottlenose whale was listed because anticipated “costs” of listing are “minimal due to overlap with other ongoing conservation efforts and regulatory controls”
Whether a species is at risk should not be decided through political discussion. Socio-economic considerations must help determine if and how to recover a species, but these considerations have no place in the listing process. Species at risk lists under federal, provincial and territorial laws should reflect COSEWIC designations.