31 August, 2014
On behalf of the minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, we answer your letter underlining your concern about the threats to the St. Lawrence beluga whale population linked to the proposed Cacouna Harbour. Our government is effectively aware that this isolated population is threatened.
In Québec, beluga management is under the responsibility of the federal government and, as stated in your letter, the St. Lawrence beluga population is listed as threated under the Species at Risk Act (SC 2002, c.29). Furthermore, the government of Québec also acknowledges the precariousness of this population and has also listed as threated under the provincial Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species (CQLR, c. E-12.01; Loi sur les espéces menacées ou vulnérables).
In Québec, wildlife habitats of listed species can be protected by another provincial law, the Act respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife (CQLR, c. C-61.1; Loi sur la conservation et la mise en valeur de la faune) providing that the habitat characteristics are defined in the Regulation respecting threated or vulnerable wildlife species and their habitats (CQLR, c. E-12.01, r.2; Réglement sur les espéces fauniques menaceés ou vulnérables et leurs habitats). Considering that the St. Lawrence beluga habitat has not yet been defined in this last regulation, our Ministry has no legal power to intervene for this species within the framework of the proposed harbour in Cacouna.
However, the environmental impact and assessment framework of the Environment Quality Act (CQLR, c.Q-2; Loi sur la qualité de l’environement) allows our Ministry to emit a notice describing protection measures that should be respected to protect the species. During this process, we make sure to obtain the best information available and, in the case of the federally protected beluga population, we make sure to contact experts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Lastly, we have to underline that our Ministry is actively involved in the beluga Recovery Strategy, notably by his participation to the federal recovery team, and is also involved in the Québec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network.
Please be assured that we support your concern for the St. Lawrence beluga population and that we are aware of all the efforts deployed to protect it.
Deputy minister associated with Wildlife and Parks,
Édifice Boi-Fontaine, RC 120
880, chemin Sainte-Foy
Québec (Québec) G1S 4X4
Teléphone: 418-627-8658, poste 7285