• Atlantic cod is listed as a species at risk. (Photo: NOAA FishWatch/Wikimedia Commons)

Threatened and endangered marine fishes, which are in the most need of conservation measures, fare the worst under the Species at Risk Act and the Fisheries Act, a study published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences has found.

The study says that the two categories of fishes face the greatest bias and receive the least protection, with almost five years passing between their assessment by scientists with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and their Species at Risk Act (SARA) listing decision. When the latter is made, 70.6 per cent of species have been denied a SARA listing, after which the Fisheries Act provides few of the SARA-required measures, the study said. Sixty-two marine fish species have been assessed as being at risk since SARA came into effect in 2003, but only 12 of those (19.3 per cent) have been listed under the act.

The study also noted that marine fishes classified as “special concern” — which means they don’t require a recovery strategy or action plan — were “significantly more likely to be listed on SARA than either threatened or endangered species.”

“Marine fishes in Canada are missing the safety net that is meant to be provided by SARA or the Fisheries Act. Both Acts have the potential to effectively conserve at-risk marine fishes, but neither act is currently being implemented adequately to do so, and arguably well-meaning legislation and related regulatory frameworks are failing,” concluded the study.