The federal government has announced to have downgraded the North Pacific humpback whale from its status of “threatened” species to “species of special concern” and hence removed a potentially significant legal hurdle out of the way of the multi-million-dollar Northern Gateway pipeline project. The humpback will consequently lose the protections it receives under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).
The decision was reveled in the latest edition of Canada Gazette and said that the reclassification means the North Pacific humpback “would no longer be subject to the general prohibitions set out in SARA, nor would its critical habitat be required to be legally protected under SARA. However, other provisions of SARA would continue to apply.” The decision was reached after a 2011 report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), i.e. an independent board that advises the federal government on classifying Canada’s animal species. Consequently, the government issued 312 notices for public consultations regarding the potential change in the humpback’s status, out of which it received 22 responses.