Caribou and salmon population declines warrant at-risk status | WWF-Canada

Caribou and salmon population declines warrant at-risk status

Posted on 05 December 2017
Sockeye salmon migrating up the Adams River to spawn.
© Michel Roggo/WWF
TORONTO, December 4, 2017 – Sockeye salmon populations in the Fraser River and an Arctic migratory caribou herd (Dolphin and Union) are among the species assessed as at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC) today. While these assessments are meant to be the first step in a federal process for the protection and recovery of these species, the process is hindered by missed legal deadlines, under-resourcing and failure to act on some of the committee’s assessments.  
Megan Leslie, CEO and president of WWF-Canada, says:
“While the recovery of the peregrine falcon, noted by COSEWIC, is to be celebrated, today’s assessments overall show that wildlife loss continues to be a grave issue in Canada. Both the re-assessment of the Dolphin and Union caribou herd to Endangered, and the at-risk assessment of 15 sockeye salmon groups, make it clear that with migratory species, the old single-species conservation approach isn’t feasible. This is more relevant now than ever before, given the state of wildlife loss in Canada. Our research showed that half of Canada’s monitored vertebrate species are in decline, and even at-risk species are suffering losses – at an increasing rate. 
“An at-risk designation should at least guarantee a timely recovery plan. It doesn’t. Improving the implementation of SARA, by meeting legal timelines and fully funding SARA-related programs (including COSEWIC activities), is an essential first step. 
“But as a society we need to take an even broader and bolder approach to conservation, especially as the climate changes. We need new and stronger ways to stop further wildlife loss. Decision-making must take conservation into account. And measures to reverse wildlife decline will only be effective, and long-lasting, if they deliver both ecological and community benefits.”
Paul Crowley, VP of Arctic conservation at WWF-Canada, says:    
“The reassessment of the Dolphin and Union caribou herd from Special Concern to Endangered is a call to action for Canada. The main threats to this declining herd are human disturbances – primarily ice-breaking through their migratory corridor in the Northwest Passage, and climate change, which alters the reliability of their migratory route and their ability to access food. Badly timed ice-breaking, in particular, will destroy critical caribou habitat. Unless it’s an emergency, we simply can’t have icebreakers going through the migratory routes these endangered caribou rely on.” 
Elizabeth Hendriks, VP of freshwater conservation at WWF-Canada, says:
“Fourteen years ago, a single group of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River was assessed as Endangered. The federal government failed to act. In the meantime, stresses on their habitat increased. Today’s assessment of 14 new sockeye salmon groups as at-risk demonstrates that inaction can harm a species – and threaten a commercial fishery – in little more than a decade.” 
Sigrid Kuehnemund, VP of ocean conservation at WWF-Canada, says:
“As with many marine mammals in Canada’s oceans, human activity presents the biggest danger to grey whales. Threats to the Pacific Coast Feeding Group of grey whales include entanglements in fishing gear, underwater noise and human disturbance. Future recovery plans must address these threats, as well as ensuring sufficient food availability as climate change affects prey availability in the Pacific Ocean.” 
Species assessed or re-assessed as at-risk include:
  • Dolphin and Union caribou – the herd in Nunavut and Northwest Territories assessed as Endangered.
  • Sockeye salmon – five groups assessed as Special Concern, two groups assessed as Threatened, eight groups assessed as Endangered (including one that had been previously assessed as Endangered in 2003), all in the Fraser River, B.C.
  • Grey whale – two Pacific groups assessed as Endangered.
  • Northern saw-whet owl brooksi subspecies from Haida Gwaii reassessed as Threatened.  
  • Find the full list here
For more information on species decline in Canada, please see Living Planet Report Canada: 
For more information or for media requests, please contact
Rebecca Spring, senior communications specialist, WWF-Canada,, +1 647 338-6274
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Sockeye salmon migrating up the Adams River to spawn.
© Michel Roggo/WWF Enlarge