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Endangered Species Legislation

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC) is the legal entity that provides scientific assessment and advice to the Government of Canada on the status of individual species to be considered for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). SARA provides the legal protection and conservation of wildlife species in Canada. It is the commitment of SARA to prevent wildlife species from extinction as well as securing their recovery.

Nine species of shark have been assessed by COSEWIC, four as ‘Special Concern', three as ‘Endangered' and one as ‘Threatened'. To date, four species of shark have had to be listed under SARA, the bluntnose six-gill and tope shark as ‘Special Concern' and the basking shark as ‘Endangered' on the Pacific coast and the white shark as 'Endangered' in the Atlantic. If a species is listed as ‘Special Concern' under SARA, DFO has to prepare and propose a management plan for that species. If a species is listed as ‘Threatened' or ‘Endangered', DFO has to prepare a recovery plan for the species and its habitat that will ensure its recovery. Management plans for the bluntnose six-gill and tope shark are still pending, a draft recovery plan was developed for basking shark (Pacific population). All remaining species assessed by COSEWIC, with the exception of the porbeagle shark, which was rejected in 2006, are currently being considered for designation. A public consultation period was recently held for the proposed addition of the Atlantic populations of spiny dogfish and the basking shark.

The process of listing endangered species in Canada has been criticized in the past. Comparisons between "listed" and "non-listed" species have concluded that marine species, most noticeably commercially harvested species such as the porbeagle shark, are less likely to be accepted and listed under SARA. Furthermore, some have argued that the SARA listing process has not yet yielded any meaningful protection measures for sharks in Canada.