Dare to Be Deep off the Gaspé Peninsula
This post is the first of three as part of their Dare to Be Deep campaign. They will introduce you to some exceptional marine sites that we all hope to see protected by the end of the year. Today, they take you to a site off the Gaspé Peninsula.
Why is this site so important?
The eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula embodies an exceptional territory characterized by a great diversity of natural environments. These are habitats for numerous wild species of great heritage value, such as certain cetaceans (blue whales, right whales, etc.), harbour seals, and also leatherback turtles, as well as several hundreds of thousands of seabirds (for more information on this subject you may wish to consult the list from the Parc national de l’île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé). The site is also located in the middle of an environmental corridor used by Atlantic salmon during their migration.
The presence of these symbolic species, and of several others, comes from a unique hydrodynamic system created by the Gaspé Current (which flows towards the east along the south bank of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence) and the American Bank shallows. Significant phytoplankton production occurs at this location where two bodies of water with quite different characteristics meet. These algae are at the bottom of an extremely rich and varied food chain, a system that has contributed to the development of human communities in the region for a very long time.
Each year, the beautiful local landscapes and biodiversity attract many outdoor recreation enthusiasts (hikers, cyclists, kayakers, divers, etc.) and nature lovers. What’s more,
What are the threats to this site?
This area is subject to increasing human demands and pressures. Urban growth combined with inefficient domestic and industrial wastewater management contributes to worrisome levels of chemical and bacterial pollution. The growth of maritime traffic increases the probability of an accident, and is seriously detrimental to the safety of marine mammals already disturbed by an expanding and poorly supervised wildlife observation tourism industry. In addition, several significant industrial aquaculture and energy (offshore petroleum development) projects are planned for the area, and these may have significant impacts on the ecosystems, partly due to the lack of a coordinated and comprehensive planning process.
Protection of the site: Where do we stand now?
The Quebec Chapter of CPAWS, in conjunction with the Réseau d’observation des mammifères marins (ROMM) (the Marine Mammal Observation Network) and several local economic stakeholders, asked the relevant ministries to study the potential for creating a marine protected area off the Gaspé Peninsula. Shortly thereafter, on World Oceans Day in 2011, the federal government announced that 1000 square kilometres of marine territory centred on the American Bank shallows had become an Area of Interest for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
This announcement was a first step towards the creation of a marine protected area. The process will of course involve consultation with First Nations and other local community representatives, in order to establish what the future marine protected area will look like.
Thanks in part to the MEC Community grants program, the Quebec Chapter of CPAWS will continue its efforts to promote marine protected areas and to share its expertise with local organizations.
How can you contribute to the protection of this site?
Despite some recent progress, Quebec (like Canada as a whole) still protects less than 1% of its marine territory, and this territory continues to be degraded. So it is important to act quickly. That’s why CPAWS started a campaign to get the government to create 12 new marine protected areas by the end of 2012. To see these 12 marine areas, please visit our Dare to Be Deep campaign website or the graphic put together by the Globe and Mail.
The Gaspé Peninsula site is one of these 12 sites. By supporting our campaign you will show your interest in the protection of this exceptional site, and you will contribute to its protection. Our partner, Mountain Equipment Co-op is offering draw prizes to supporters of this campaign, so don’t wait, sign the petition!
You can also become our friend on Facebook and follow our news, including news about this unique marine territory.Jérôme Spaggiari Conservation Coordinator, CPAWS Quebec Chapter
Photograph © Jérôme Spaggiari