A new protection zone in the gulf of St. Lawrence

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
The marine protected area is located just off the edge of Forillon national park, Gaspé peninsula.

More than twenty years after the creation of the marine park of Saguenay–Saint-Laurent, a large new area of marine protection has just been made official in quebec’s waters, this time to the east of the gaspé peninsula : the Bench of American. But Quebec is still far from its goal of protecting 10 % of marine environments by 2020, since this rate barely reaches 1.9% at the current time.

The federal government has published Wednesday in the Canada Gazette , the protective rules which apply to this area of 1000 km2 that form a quadrilateral, situated off the coast of the Gaspé peninsula. The northern limit is located at the tip of Forillon national park and the south boundary is just to the east of the island Bonaventure.

Une nouvelle zone de protection dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent

In general, the government of Canada and government of Quebec will work together in order to prohibit any activity ” that disturbs, damages, destroys or removes of the marine protected area, any living marine organism or any part of its habitat, or is likely to do so “. Some commercial fisheries, however, continue to be authorized, as well as commercial navigation, but while being more framed.

Marine biodiversity

This sector of the gulf of St. Lawrence is of great biological importance to the ecosystem of the St. Lawrence river. According to the description that, in fact, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, environment ” is characterized by the diversity of its habitats, by the presence of permanent or seasonal, many species with commercial value, and whales, by the presence of at-risk species and a high diversity of molluscs and crustaceans “.

There are especially a dozen cetacean species, including the blue whale and the right whale, two species that are classified as ” endangered “. The marine protected area is, therefore, designed “to protect the seabed habitats and forage species, and to facilitate the recovery of certain endangered species, in particular the blue whale, the spotted wolffish and the northern wolffish,” said the federal by way of a press release. This is also the case of the stock of cod in the southern gulf.

Une nouvelle zone de protection dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
Over fifteen species of cetacean can be found in the marine protected area, including the humpback whale.

The Society for parks and wilderness (CPAWS Quebec) has welcomed the announcement Wednesday, stressing that the establishment of the marine protected area (MPA) of the Bench-Americans is the result of several years of consultation and negotiation between various actors “.

The establishment of the MPA of the Bench-Americans is certainly a step in the protection of the marine environment of quebec, but there is still a lot of work to do to achieve the objective of the Quebec government, is to protect 10 % by 2020. At the present time, the rate of protection averaged just 1.9 per cent.

“With a collaboration agreement the Canada-Quebec marine protected areas now signed and a number of fine projects in progress, we hope to see the Québec and Canada meet their commitments by the end of 2020 “, has, however, argued Wednesday, Alain Branchaud, a biologist and executive director of CPAWS Québec.

One thing is for certain, the type of coverage announced for the Bench-Americans is much more stringent than the “shelters” sailors put in place in recent months by the Trudeau government, particularly in the quebec portion of the gulf of St. Lawrence. These shelters are established to allow Canada to catch up with her significant delay regarding the protection of marine environments, however, are not taken into account by the Quebec.

It must be said that they are summed up to protect coral and sea sponges, while leaving the door open to almost all human activities, including oil exploration.

The marine protected area of Banc-of-america is therefore the only place, across the whole of the gulf of St. Lawrence, “to prohibit permanently all oil and gas activity,” said Mr. Branchaud.

Protection projects in Quebec

Estuary of the St. Lawrence river

The government of Quebec and the federal government have already agreed to launch a consultation in view of the establishment of an area of marine protection in the estuary of the St. Lawrence river. A project already exists since 1998 in the form of a “site of interest” of 6000 km2, in order to enhance the protection of critical habitat of beluga whales.

Islands of the Madeleine

This is the most important project in the waters of quebec, with a study area of 17 000 km2, encompassing the entire archipelago. Alone, this project would allow Quebec to reach its goal of 10 % protection of marine environments. Presented for the first time in 2004, it is not likely to be completed before 2020.