Aboriginal peoples

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) could have significant implications for Aboriginal peoples given the historical and cultural relationship of many Aboriginal groups to aquatic species. The Act recognizes this special relationship and acknowledges the valuable role Aboriginal people can play in the recovery and protection of species at risk.

If you or your community fishes for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes or fishes commercially, the consequences of SARA will vary depending on where you are located, what kind of fish you catch, the kind of activities you carry out on Aboriginal lands, as well as the management measures that may be put in place to protect species at risk.

Possible impacts of SARA could include:

  • reduced fishing opportunities for FSC or commercial purposes
  • modifications of fishing gear
  • restrictions on bycatch of species
  • fishing area closures
  • closures or reductions in some fisheries
  • possible increased fishing opportunities in other fisheries

Because SARA also protects the critical habitat of aquatic species, this could affect the activities you carry out on Aboriginal lands. New bylaws or regulations could be required for activities that potentially impact species at risk and their critical habitats. Environmental assessments and reviews for development projects on and off Aboriginal lands must take into account the impacts on species at risk.

SARA requires that Aboriginal people have the opportunity to participate in its implementation. The Act makes a special reference to the inclusion of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in the recovery of species at risk.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been working closely with Aboriginal groups to let them know about the Act and its possible implications. Together we are exploring the various ways in which Aboriginal groups can become involved, including participation in the development and implementation of species recovery strategies and action plans.

SARA also provides for the establishment of these two committees by Environment Canada:

  • National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk (NACOSAR): NACOSAR will advise the Minister of the Environment on the administration of SARA and provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.
  • The Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee on Species at Risk, of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): This subcommittee will provide access to the best available Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and facilitate the use of this knowledge by COSEWIC when assessing and classifying species at risk.