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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Queen Maud Gulf

The Water

Both Queen Maud Gulfand Coronation Gulf are shallow basins averaging less than 100 m in depth and shoaling progressively towards the shore. Ice cover is complete for about nine months of the year and is predominantly landfast ice. Many of the channels and straits are ice-choked throughout the summer, as Franklin discovered in 1847. He and the rest of the crew of the Erebus and Terror perished on King William Island that year. More than 50 years later, the quest for the Northwest Passage was finally realized when Amundsen sailed through these same waters on his way west.

The Coast

The Coastline is regular, with moderately high rolling headlands along the western mainland coast, gently sloped beaches and sandy tidal flats occurring in the east and north. Numerous islands, islets, inlets, passages and bays are found throughout. Cliffs are common locally and reach 200-300 m. Drumlins and eskers, reminders of the vast glaciers which have only recently retreated, are typically found along the coast and inland.

The Wildlife

Among the fish species, Arctic charr are relatively abundant and support a commercial fishery. Ogac, polar and Arctic cod are common. Whales are rare, except for the occasional narwhal. Bearded seals, ringed seals and polar bears are the only marine mammal species known to regularly frequent these waters. The extent of landfast ice suggests that the region probably harbours a relatively high density of ringed seals, as this is their preferred breeding habitat. Thousands of waterfowl, notably tundra swans, brant, white-fronted, Ross's, snow and Canada geese, common eiders, oldsquaw, and yellow-billed loons breed, moult and stage in the area. The largest concentrations are within the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary, including most of the world population of Ross's geese. Several shorebird species are also abundant nesters.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Studies to identify preliminary representative marine areas have yet to be undertaken. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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