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Terms of Reference

National Marine Mammal Peer Review Committee (NMMPRC): February 2022 Biannual Meeting

National Advisory Meeting – National Capital Region

February 14-18, 2022
Virtual Meeting

Chairpersons: Véronique Lesage and Sean MacConnachie


The National Marine Mammal Peer Review Committee (NMMPRC) holds at least one annual meeting to conduct scientific peer-review of marine mammal research and provide scientific advice. Meetings provide the opportunity for collaborative review of scientific results by DFO and external marine mammal experts. Following NMMPRC peer-review and approval, scientific results are used to provide sound scientific advice for the management and conservation of marine mammals in Canada.


Specific Terms of Reference for each topic are as follows:

1. Population status assessment for beluga stocks in Nunavik (northern Quebec)

Hunters living in northern Quebec (Nunavik) harvest beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) from at least four summering stocks that have different migratory patterns: the eastern Hudson Bay (EHB) and western Hudson Bay (WHB) summering stocks migrate to overwinter in Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea. The Ungava Bay (UB) summering stock has an undefined migratory pathway but is likely to share overwinter areas with the Hudson Bay stocks. A separate, “non-migratory” population of belugas is found in James Bay (JB) during summer; these animals appear to overwinter in an area of loose ice where James Bay and Hudson Bay meet. In 2020, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated WHB beluga as Not at Risk, EHB beluga as Threatened, UB beluga as Endangered, and JB beluga as Not at Risk.

Harvesting of EHB beluga by Nunavik communities is managed under a multi-year management plan developed by the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMRWB) and the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB), and approved by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The current management objective is to ensure a 50% or greater probability of maintaining a stable stock of 3,400 individuals after five years. The plan intends to meet this objective through a combination of non-quota (regional and seasonal closures) and quota limitations.

Management of beluga in Nunavik relies on the estimation of abundance of beluga in their summering aggregations, and on an understanding of stock composition of the harvest, which varies both seasonally and spatially.  EHB and JB beluga were previously surveyed in August 2015. A new survey of these two areas was conducted in August 2021.


The objectives of the meeting are to:

This information will also support the Department in meeting requirements for an updated assessment of Nunavik beluga stocks as required under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) bycatch provisions (in the case that EHB or JB beluga are ever identified as bycatch).

Expected Publications
Expected Participation
2. Population status assessment and Potential Biological Removal (PBR) for the Pacific Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) in Canadian Pacific waters

The Pacific harbour seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) is the most abundant pinniped species in the Northeast Pacific and is found throughout coastal and estuarine waters of British Columbia (BC), using haulout sites to rest, moult and give birth. It is estimated that harbour seal populations were depleted to ~10,000 animals coast wide due to large-scale predator control programs and harvests in the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. Abundance of harbour seals in the region increased substantially following their legal protection in the early 1970s, then stabilized along much of the west coast of North America in the mid-1990s.  Most recently,  ~105,000 harbour seals were estimated to be inhabiting Canadian Pacific waters (DFO 2010). Based on historic reconstructions it is estimated that harbour seal populations have fully recovered in BC waters (Olesiuk 2010).  Pacific harbour seals were evaluated in 1999 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and assessed as “not at risk”.

As harbour seals are the primary prey of ‘West Coast Transient’ (WCT) population of Bigg’s killer whales and a significant consumer of important fish species, including southern resident killer whale (SRKW) prey species such as chinook salmon, this study will also provide key data for an ecosystem approach to management. With respect to SRKW, information provided via this request may be used to inform a scientific assessment of the potential prey competition between harbour seals and SRKW. Information will also support the Department in meeting requirements for an updated harbour seal population assessment for Pacific Canadian waters as required under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) import provisions. Information may also be used for broad departmental priorities, including spill response and Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning.

Expected Publications
Expected Participation


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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