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Saguenay–St.Lawrence Marine Park

Summary for Teachers

The Water Column - Summary of Specimen Concerns with Explanations

Upper Layer

Common Eider
Concern: Sensitive to disturbance.
Explanation: The presence of humans in nesting sites disturbs brooding females and scares them away. When this happens, ducklings become easy targets for predators.

Herring Gull
Concern: Overpopulation.
Explanation: The herring gull is well-known for its ability to adapt to its surroundings. Hence, it is so numerous today that it has become a real nuisance, especially in large cities.

Harbour Seal
Concern: Sensitive to human disturbance.
Explanation: The presence of humans in haulouts disturbs seals, especially
during calving and milk feeding — two activities that are essential to their survival.

Beluga Whale
Concern: Endangered species
Explanation: contaminants can make it more vulnerable to illnesses.

Blue Whale
Concern: Species threatened with extinction, sensitive to disturbance.
Explanation: Observation activities in the marine park can disturb these gigantic mammals.
Note: The Blue Whale is the largest animal on the planet.

Phytoplankton
Concern: Sensitive to climate changes.
Explanation: Climate changes can alter the environment, water properties or habitat, in turn affecting the abundance of phytoplankton.

Situation scenario
In a marine environment, climate changes can affect organisms like fish. To show you how temperature increase can have an impact on animal life, imagine yourself in this situation:

It’s winter. The classroom’s heating isn’t working properly, and is on high all day. It’s really hot and the air is dry. The door and windows are closed. All the students in the class are too hot. Your eyes and nose are all dry. Those wearing thick clothing have to take it off because they are sweaty. The students who suffer from asthma are having trouble breathing. You are getting thirstier and thirstier. During this time, your teacher, who is also too hot like you, continues with the lesson. Do you think you could still concentrate and learn?

Intermediate Layer

Sand Lance
Concern: None.
Explanation: Sand lance fishing is largely untapped in Canada, and remains a major resource yet to be studied.

Copepods
Concern: Sensitive to climate changes.
Explanation: Copepod populations can vary depending on water temperature and availability of food.

Krill
Concern: Sensitive to climate changes.
Explanation: Climate changes can have a significant effect on the environment, water properties and habitats, which in turn can influence the abundance of krill. 

Atlantic Herring
Concern: Protected against overfishing.
Explanation: Due to overfishing of herring off Newfoundland’s coasts, quotas have been introduced to limit the number of fish caught.

Capelin
Concern: Sensitive to climate changes.
Explanation: Climate changes can influence the availability of food (krill, copepods, small invertebrates) and the quality of the environment.

Blue Mussel
Concern: Sensitive to pollution and contaminants.
Explanation: The blue mussel is sensitive to environmental contaminants because it filters its food.

Bottom Layer

Green Sea Urchin
Concern: Very limited fishery / no real concerns.
Explanation: Urchin fishing is relatively new and only small quantities are caught. Therefore, it can be said that the population is doing well and is not threatened for the time being.

Starfish
Concern: Sensitive to disturbance.
Explanation: The presence of humans (scuba diving, fishing, etc.) can greatly disturb starfish protecting their eggs, which is essential to their survival.

Anemone
Concern: Ground fishing.
Explanation: Scallop fishing is done by dragging nets across sea beds, thus destroying the natural habitat of anemones.

Sea Cucumber
Concern: Ground fishing.
Explanation: Scallop fishing is done by dragging nets across sea beds, thus destroying the natural habitat of sea cucumbers.

Crab
Concern: Ground fishing.
Explanation: Scallop fishing is done by dragging nets across sea beds, removing everything and thus destroying the natural habitat of crabs.

Atlantic Cod
Concern: Species threatened with extinction.
Explanation: Atlantic cod is endangered mainly due to overfishing. Today, even sport fishing has a serious impact on the already low population.

The St. Lawrence Beluga - Concerns and explanations by sub-theme:

Reproduction / An Offspring every Three Years
Concern: Endangered species/decreased population.
Explanation: The particularly long breeding cycle slows population increase.

Calving / A Calf at Sea!
Concern: Exposure to pollutants.
Explanation: Throughout her life, the mother absorbs pollutants that contaminate her fat-laden milk. Consequently, these contaminants can be transmitted to calves during feeding.

Breathing / A Very Deep Breath!
Concern: Danger of collision.
Explanation: Belugas surface to breathe.

Feeding Habits / The Dangers of Being at the Top
Concern: Development of infectious diseases or cancers.
Explanation: Belugas absorb pollution by feeding on prey contaminated by pollutants accumulated in the St. Lawrence.
Note: The cancer rate in Beluga whales is comparable to that of humans

Communication / Big Talkers
Concern: Disturbance by human activity.
Explanation: Noises made by ships can sometimes affect the beluga's hearing or scramble its communication system.

Echolocation / In the Dark
Concern: None.
Explanation: ------------
Note: Bats are another animal that use echolocation.

Evolution / An Endangered Species
Concern: Endangered species / 1,000 individuals.
Explanation: Beluga hunting was only banned in the St. Lawrence in 1979.

Distribution / Around the World
Concern: Overexposed to pollutants and more vulnerable to epidemics and ecological disasters.
Explanation: Lives year-round in the estuary and gulf.
Note: The St. Lawrence Beluga is the beluga population that lives the furthest south. These belugas face difficulties that belugas further north have not yet experienced.

Pods / Together!
Concern: The population is not recovering.
Explanation: Despite protection and pollution reduction initiatives.