Humpback Whales were listed in 2005 as ‘threatened’ under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), based on a re-assessment of species status by the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) (Baird 2003). A recovery strategy for the North Pacific population is currently under development and was legally required by January 2009. Under SARA, a recovery strategy must identify a threatened species’ Critical Habitat¹ to the extent possible, based on the best available information. In order to complete the draft Recovery Strategy for North Pacific Humpback Whales in Canada (DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 2009) an analysis of available information on important habitat(s) for humpbacks in British Columbia (B.C.) is required to assist formal identification of SARA Critical Habitat in the Recovery Strategy. Science advice was requested by DFO Resource Management to identify habitat that may be critical to the recovery of Humpback Whales in B.C. waters. As a result, a draft DFO Research Document was prepared (Nichol et al. 2009) and a Special Science Response (SSR) meeting was conducted to provide the necessary peer-reviewed information for consideration by the Recovery Team and in preparation for regional consultation on the Recovery Strategy. This report summarizes information presented in the draft Research Document in association with discussion points and conclusions from the review.
A national advisory meeting was held via conference call on September 30, 2009. Objectives were to: (1) review the draft working paper “Assessment of critical habitats of North Pacific Humpback Whales in British Columbia” L. Nichol, R. Abernethy, L. Flostrand, T. Lee, J. K. B. Ford; (2) generate Science advice regarding information relevant to the identification of Critical Habitat in support of the recovery goals and objectives as set out in the draft Humpback Whale Recovery Strategy; and (3) finalize a map of critical habitat to include in the recovery strategy. Discussion at the outset of the meeting focused on context and DFO Science’s role in providing science advice regarding habitat(s) essential for the survival or recovery of a species versus identifying SARA Critical Habitat to Resource Management. As the Recovery Team is responsible for identifying Critical Habitat boundaries in the Recovery Strategy, the third objective was omitted from this SSR meeting.
¹SARA states that Critical Habitat is “habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or action plan for the species”
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