It’s a heck of a handle, but the long-named Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) may be about to become really familiar to residents of this province — and not in a nice way, either.
COSEWIC regularly lists species that it feels are in need of special protection — and this year, the committee’s listed cod and two species of redfish as “endangered” and American plaice as “threatened.” For all three, the committee said the primary risks are directed fishing and being caught as bycatch.
Leave aside the regular arguments from fishers, especially in the case of cod, that the species is actually rebounding and the science hasn’t kept up with the real facts, and look instead about what happens when a species is determined to be “at risk.”
The terms of the species at risk legislation are very interesting, especially section 32 and 33:
“(1) No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species.
(2) No person shall possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species, or any part or derivative of such an individual.”
And: “33. No person shall damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as an endangered species or a threatened species, or that is listed as an extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended the reintroduction of the species into the wild in Canada.”
So, here’s a question: what happens if cod or redfish are an endangered or threatened species?
It sure looks like any kind of fishery that would have cod or redfish not only as a targeted fishery but also as a bycatch would be, well, illegal.
And how exactly would any kind of bottom trawling be allowed, given the potential for destroying “the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as endangered”? Could you use heavy bottom rigs to harvest deep-water scallop without damaging cod habitat? Could you pressure-blast the sea floor for surf clams without running the risk of disturbing a redfish or two? And could you haul the small mesh of a shrimp trawl through miles of ocean without ever killing an individual redfish or cod?
Hard to say just exactly how any of that would work.
For now, it’s only the mid-point of the listing process. Right now, the listing of the species is in the hands of the federal fisheries department, which has the responsibility for public consultation and review of the COSEWIC listing. But everyone should be aware that if cod and redfish really in as much danger as COSEWIC suggests, the ramifications might be far, far broader.