New protected marine area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Humpback whales in Canadian oceanic waters. Photo by Barrett&MacKay / WWF-Canada

Recently the Canadian Government announced that a new marine wildlife protected area will be coming to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Banc-des-Américains will include a 1,000 square kilometre protected zone on the eastern tip of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. This project represents a first for cooperation between the government of Quebec and the government of Canada for establishing a marine protected area or MPA.

“This project has been years in the making,” Sigrid Kuehnemund, VP of Oceans Conservation at WWF, says. “It’s a chance for the federal government and province to work together and remove barriers for the greater cause of marine conservation.”

School of atlantic mackerel. Photo by Erling Svensen / WWF

The Banc-des-Américains is in the migratory routes and feeding grounds of many at risk species of whales including the North Atlantic white whale and the blue whale in addition to over 15 different marine mammals.

“The diversity of marine life and productivity of the life there makes it a very sought after commercial fishing zone. This protected zone will restrict oil and gas development as well as harmful industrial scale fishing techniques such as bottom trawling and gillnetting,” says Kuehnemund.

In addition to marine mammals, the Banc-des-Américains is home to the mackerel, atlantic cod and vulnerable species such as leatherback turtles, several kinds of wolffish as well as mollusks and crustaceans.

The Wolffish, Anarhichas lupus, captured in the North Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Hudson / WWF

This MPA is a large step towards Quebec’s goal of protecting 10 per cent of the St. Lawrence by 2020.

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