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The study Area covers approximately 17,000 km2 (see map). It features a large plateau, averaging less than 80 metres in depth and consisting primarily of sedimentary rock and sandy deposits. Water temperatures are among the warmest in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Water salinity is lower however than elsewhere in the Gulf due to the significant influx of fresh water from the St. Lawrence River, some of its tributaries, and land runoff.

With its abundant zooplankton, the Magdalen Shallows1 is an important feeding and maturing area as well as a spawning and nursery habitat for many fish, including herring, mackerel, and rainbow smelt. Coastal waters provide an ideal growing environment for numerous invertebrates (lobster, rock crabs, and various mollusks) while others, like toad crabs and snow crabs, are found at greater depths.

This rich environment is home to many marine mammals, including four species of seals. Harbour porpoises, white-sided dolphins, pilot whales, and minke whales are also seen here at times, and leatherback turtles feed regularly in local waters during the summer.

Some of the Gulf’s largest seabird colonies can be found in the area, notably at Rocher-aux-Oiseaux, where 20% of Canada’s northern gannet population nests. Overall, 17 species of coastal and pelagic birds are found in the study Area. Lagoons and inland bodies of water located along the edges of the marine area provide critical habitat for ducks, shorebirds, and certain endangered bird species such as the piping plover, roseate tern, and horned grebe. They also provide food and shelter for both estuarine fish and marine species that typically spend only one phase of their life cycle here.

Steeped in history, the Îles de la Madeleine still retain ancient traces of human occupation. Several hundred shipwrecks have been recorded in the waters surrounding the islands, which boast five lighthouses, further enhancing the historic value of the area. Currently, over 30 kinds of sea-based activities, primarily related to fishing, recreation, and tourism, take place in this area.

Official study area

  1. Commission for Environmental Cooperation. 2009. Marine Ecoregions of North America, Montreal, Canada, 200 pp.
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