A tiny minnow may have provided the key to protecting species at risk across the country – from the smallest fish all the way up to endangered humpback and killer whales.

In a landslide win, the Federal Court ruled in our favour and admonished the Minister of Fisheries of Oceans (DFO) for breaking the law and failing to identify the habitat of the Nooksack dace – an endangered minnow found in just four streams in BC’s Lower Mainland. In his judgment, Justice Campbell said our lawsuit was “absolutely necessary” and described the case as “a story about the creation and application of policy by the (DFO) Minister in clear contravention of the law, and a reluctance to be held accountable for failure to follow the law.” In short, the judge ruled that:

For the reasons provided in conclusion of the present Application, pursuant to s. 18.1(3) of the Federal Courts Act, I declare that the Minister acted contrary to law by failing to meet the mandatory requirements of s. 41(1)(c) of SARA in the Final Recovery Strategy for the Nooksack Dace.

In this case, recovering the Nooksack dace means protecting a series of streams in the Lower Mainland of BC – putting it mildly, a politically unsavoury move – which may explain that in addition to removing critical habitat from the Nooksack dace’s recovery strategy, the Minister also directed that this information should be removed or suppressed from all 20 aquatic species facing extinction in the province. With this win, we’ll be looking to the Minister to make substantial improvements to the way all of Canada’s at risk species are protected, including the dace.

Ecojustice is putting DFO on formal notice that it has 90 days to rewrite BC species’ recovery strategies that have failed to identify critical habitat, and we’ll continue to monitor the government’s progress in the coming months. For now, we’re happy to celebrate this win with our clients – David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, Georgia Strait Alliance and the Wilderness Committee.