Missing the safety net: evidence for inconsistent and insufficient management of at-risk marine fishes in Canada
Marine conservation is often perceived as being in conflict with fisheries management. In Canada, at-risk marine fishes denied listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) are meant to receive comparable measures under the Fisheries Act. We assess the effectiveness of these Acts by examining (i) how long it takes a marine fish assessed as being at risk to move through the process and receive conservation measures, (ii) whether there are biases against marine fishes in the SARA process additional to the known listing bias, and (iii) when denied listing, to what extent these species are protected by the Fisheries Act. Overall, at-risk marine fishes typically spend 3.25 years under consideration for SARA, during which time they receive no additional protection. Endangered and Threatened marine fishes (i.e., those most at risk) face the greatest bias and receive the least protection; their SARA decisions are typically delayed, with almost 5 years usually passing between their COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) assessment and listing decision; most (70.6%) are then denied listing, after which the Fisheries Act provides few of the SARA-required measures. For SARA-listed marine fishes, recovery strategies are usually late and to date no action plans have been produced. Marine fish conservation is hindered by SARA’s slow pace, incomplete recovery measures, and inadequate implementation of the Fisheries Act. We provide recommendations for improving conservation of at-risk marine fishes in Canada.
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