Mi'kmaw Conservation Group

Species at Risk

Understanding the Species At Risk Act (SARA)

Hundreds of Canadian wildlife species today face the risk of extinction. Some are vital characters in our diverse cultures and histories; some are the last of their kind in the world—and all of them have an essential role to play in the environments where they live. In the aquatic world, these species are astoundingly diverse—ranging from tiny freshwater molluscs to roving giants of the oceans like the North Atlantic right whale and the famous blue whale. The question is not if we should try to protect them from vanishing forever. The question is how to go about it.

SARA at a glance

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) became law in 2003 to protect wildlife species by working to protect and recover species that are listed under SARA; and using sound management to make sure that species of special concern don’t become endangered or threatened. SARA includes prohibitions against harming or interfering with species at risk—from killing and capturing to buying, selling and collecting. It prohibits destroying the critical habitats of protected species. And it also prohibits damaging or destroying the residences of those species.

What’s protected?

The incredible array of aquatic species protected under SARA includes fish and reptiles, mammals and

molluscs—from the wolffish, Atlantic whitefish and pugnose shiner to the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon, leatherback seaturtle, sea otter, northern abalone and more. You can find the complete list at:


What SARA protection really means

The Species at Risk Act has the potential to touch the lives of millions of Canadians—from commercial fishers, aqua culturists, recreational fishers and boaters to scientists and members of maritime industries. If you own property on or near water, a farm or business, your activities could have an impact on the habitat of a species at risk. How does SARA change things? For commercial fishers, for example, there may be restrictions on the bycatch of listed species. Gear may have to be modified, areas may become off-limits, and fishing seasons might change. It is even possible that traditional fisheries may be closed or reduced.

Who decides how to protect listed species?

For some species listed under SARA, some SARA prohibitions apply automatically to protect the species itself and the residences where its members live. Protective measures are also defined through recovery strategies and action plans, which are developed in close collaboration with affected Canadians. The Government of Canada recognizes that it has to protect species at risk while maintaining economic stability and sustainable industries. Every effort is made to work with Canadians to meet the objectives of SARA while minimizing the impact on individuals, communities and businesses. If businesses have to change how they operate, those changes will be communicated clearly by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to prevent confusion or uncertainty.

Recovery strategies, action plans and management plans

There is more to SARA, of course, than prohibitions. SARA requires that recovery strategies, action plans and management plans be developed for species on the list. All of these work in their own ways to protect and recover species at risk, outlining goals, plans, projects and activities—and all of them are created with input from a wide range of Canadians including members of affected industries, academics, First Nations Communities, environmental groups and others.

More questions?

If you’re looking for more information about SARA and aquatic species, please visit:


You can also contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada by phone at 1-866-266-6603 or by email at info@dfo-mpo.gc.ca or www.SARAregistry.gc.ca

And if you want to get involved in helping protect species at risk, learn more about the Habitat Stewardship Program: www.cws-scf.ec.gc.ca/hsp-pih


Source Information from

the Communications Branch
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E6
©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2006

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