Species Protection

Species at Risk Act

Southern residents orcas L103, L55, and L109. Photo: Ken Balcomb, Center For Whale Research

Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) came into effect in 2003. Although weaker than the US Endangered Species Act, it is an important first step.

The legislation ensures that species are assessed under a scientific process that operates at arm’s length from the federal government. It also requires the development of recovery and action plans for species that are found to be most at risk. Find out more on Canada’s legislation on species at risk.

British Columbia does not have endangered species legislation.


Further information about the status and threats to species at risk in Canada:

  • Canada-wide: the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) list species as either extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, and the list is growing.
  • British Columbia: the BC Conservation Data Centre lists marine and estuarine species that are red-listed (threatened, extirpated or endangered), and blue-listed (of special concern).  However, without provincial endangered species legislation, action to recover these species are limited.
  • Our region: 119 species are at risk in the Salish Sea, with mixed protection and action being taken to support their survival.

Reasons vary, but include accumulation of toxic chemicals and/or heavy metals (particularly for animals at the top of the food chain), declining food supply, and loss of critical habitat. Clearly, many species are at risk in our region, and strong action is needed to protect them. Read more in this backgrounder prepared by Ecojustice.