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Beluga whales are among 12 out of 30 mammals needing help that are not on Canada's official list of endangered species.

Beluga whales are among 12 out of 30 mammals needing help that are not on Canada's official list of endangered species.

Questioning Canada's endangered species list

May 3, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

A group of scientists led by SFU biologist Arne Mooers is raising questions about how Canada chooses which endangered species it should protect. They say deficiencies in how cost-benefit analyses are undertaken may be to blame for many northern mammal species and fish being left off of the country's official list of endangered species.

The biologists' conclusions were published in the April 17 edition of the international journal Conservation Biology.

Mooers says researchers want a more thorough evaluation of the benefits of saving species from extinction versus the costs of letting them go extinct.

The scientists reviewed the characteristics of 30 species rejected from the list between 2003-06 by the federal government and compared them with 156 species that were accepted.

While all 12 proposed endangered birds were accepted, only one out of 11 imperiled marine fish was included. All 26 at-risk reptiles and amphibians were given legal protection.

But 12 out of 30 mammals needing help were denied listing, including the Peary caribou, polar bear, wolverine, grizzly bear, several populations of beluga whales and the Atlantic harbour porpoise.

"The decisions make it look as if Canadians value milk snakes and dromedary jumping slugs more than polar bears, beluga whales and Coho salmon. That's hard to believe," says Mooers.

"Listings under the current law seem to discriminate against the fuzzier, tastier endangered species. The value of every species should be considered carefully, especially since we are the ones threatening their existence."

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