How the General Status program can help COSEWIC?


WILD SPECIES logo followed by an arrow pointing toward the COSEWIC logo.

To prevent species in Canada from becoming extinct, intervention at early stages is fundamental. The role of the General Status program is to provide an overview of the status of species, to identify which species may be at risk.

In the National Framework for Species at Risk Conservation, which is a document detailing how to implement the Accord for the protection of species at risk, two main steps are identified in the species assessment process:

  1. First, jurisdictions collectively review the general status of their wildlife species, using the best available information and inventory data, to determine whether any species under their jurisdiction may be at risk.
  2. Next, those species that may be at risk are further examined, using a science-based approach, to more fully understand the nature and severity of the risk. The end result may be a classification as: extinct; extirpated, endangered; threatened; special concern; data deficient; or, not at risk.

The first step is conducted by the program on General Status of Species in Canada. The second step is done by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). COSEWIC is a committee of experts that does detailed assessments of species that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation. COSEWIC has 10 subcommittees that focus on specific groups of species: amphibians and reptiles, arthropods, birds, freshwater fishes, marine fishes, marine mammals, molluscs, mosses and lichens, terrestrial mammals, and vascular plants.

In the Wild Species 2010 report, the National General Status Working Group identified 806 species that may be at risk at the national level in Canada. Most of these species are vascular plants (444 species), followed by mosses and lichens (171 species), and arthropods (162 species) (see figure below). The complete list can be found on the Wild Species website in the databases or in the species search tool. The species that are identified as may be at risk by the National General Status Working Group are species that could be candidates for more detailed assessments by COSEWIC.


Piechart showing the number and proportion of the species that may be at risk belonging to each group.

Number of potential candidate species identified by the National General Status Working Group in the Wild Species 2010 report. Data for fishes comes from the Wild Species 2005 report.