Vancouver, B.C.: The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre supports the announcement made today by the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, that the St. Lawrence Estuary population of Beluga whale will be reclassified from Threatened to Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Once numbering up to 10,000, there are now fewer than 900 belugas in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Despite years of work to reduce the whales’ exposure to chemicals in the commercial seaway and the creation of protected areas for their habitat, the population is still declining. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended the reclassification in 2014.
“This is good news,” said Dr. Valeria Vergara, research scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. “Once animals are officially listed as Endangered under SARA, a greater emphasis is placed on developing recovery and management plans, monitoring programs, and research projects to promote their conservation.” Vergara has been working with other cetacean scientists in the St. Lawrence region to try and understand the threats impacting this vulnerable population of whales. Her research is focused on underwater noise introduced by human activities, and its impact on beluga mothers and their newborn calves.
The announcement by DFO also included news that nine more aquatic species will receive protection under SARA, including five freshwater fishes, two marine mammals, one sea turtle and one mollusc. Cumberland Sound beluga whales will also be listed for for the first time. The species to be protected or reclassified were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on May 3, 2017.
SARA governs actions to prevent the extinction of wildlife species and to secure the necessary actions for the recovery of species at risk.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org