Thursday, April 8, 2010

Federal decision not to add the Gulf of St. Lawrence Winter Skate to the List of Species at risk

The Federal Government recently decided not to add the Winter Skate to the List of Species at Risk, as per the Decisions Not to Add Certain Species List of Wildlife Species at Risk Order, SI/2010-14.

Justification for this decision is as follows:

«The prohibitions under section 32 of the Species at Risk Act (“the Act”), which come into effect after listing a species as threatened or endangered, require that any activity that would result in killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking the listed species be stopped immediately. This would include fishing activity, if the Winter Skate is caught as bycatch while listed as threatened or endangered, as is the case for the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Eastern Scotian Shelf populations, which have been assessed as endangered species and threatened species respectively. The negative socio-economic impacts of listing these populations would be significant and the population trajectory of the species is unlikely to be reversed as a result of the listing. The closure of commercial fisheries in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization areas 4T and 4VW, which would be necessary as a result of listing these populations, would result in millions of dollars in lost revenue annually, as well as significant direct and indirect job losses.

There is a lack of support from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and industry stakeholders for the listing of these three populations of Winter Skate. Some Aboriginal communities have also expressed reservations about listing.

Two points can be raised further to this decision:

- There is still a huge gap between the current rethoric about economic valuation of ecosystem services and the actual balancing of economic losses with such services in the context of biodiversity conservation;

- Threshold effects in biodiversity loss that might abruptly reduce ecosystem services appear not to be considered at all, despite consistent scientifc literature on their existence. These threshold effects must play a role in tying the value of ecosystem services to the economic valuation of specific species extinctions.

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