Canadian Species at Risk Act

In June 2002, Canada adopted the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This law has been in effect since June 2003. It aims to:

  • Prevent the extinction of wild species in Canada;
  • Allow for the recovery of species extirpated from the country, endangered or threatened due to human activities;
  • Prevent special concern species from becoming further endangered.

Under the SARA it is prohibited to hunt, capture, harass or harm any extirpated, endangered or threatened species registered on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (Schedule 1 of the SARA). It is also illegal to possess, collect, purchase, sell or trade individuals, parts of individuals or products derived from these species. SARA also prohibits damaging or destroying the residence or any essential element of their habitat.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent advisory body composed of experts, determines the situation of species and attributes them a status. Following COSEWIC’s assessment, the government decides whether or not to register the species on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk while taking into account the economic and social repercussions for Canadian citizens. If the species is added, it is protected under SARA. Recovery programs for extirpated, endangered and threatened species and management plans for species of special concern must be developed.

Le rorqual bleu, une espèce en voie de disparition selon la LEP

  • Blue whale, endangered species according to SARA
  • Photo credit : © GREMM

Five species of St. Lawrence whales are currently protected by SARA: the North Atlantic right whale, the blue whale, and the Scotian Shelf population of the northern bottlenose whale (all three Endangered), as well as the beluga (Threatened) and the fin whale (Special Concern). One species extirpated from the St. Lawrence, but still present in the Canadian Arctic, is also listed: the Atlantic Walrus. The harbour porpoise is currently undergoing an evaluation for its inclusion on the List and the humpback whale is still present in Schedule 3 of SARA.

Understanding SARA