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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Hudson Bay

The Water

Hudson Bay is a broad shallow basin, averaging 125 m in depth and less than 80 m deep for 20-100 km from the coast. The bottom is predominantly smooth, although it is cut by several troughs and banks. Ice cover lasts from October to June. Shore leads along the entire inner edge of the bay are kept open through the winter by strong prevailing winds, separating the landfast ice along the coast from the pack ice which predominates in most of the bay. The Waters of Hudson Bay are Arctic in nature, the strong outflow in the northeast part of the bay preventing the Atlantic-Arctic water mix in Hudson Strait from entering. The freshwater discharge into Hudson Bay from the numerous rivers is more than twice that of either the Mackenzie or St. Lawrence River systems, resulting in significantly lower salinities throughout the region during the spring and summer. The tidal range varies from less than 1 m to a little over 2 m.

The Coast

Hudson Bay is a vast Palaeozoic platform deposited in a pre-existing depression of the Canadian Shield. Shorelines in the north are typically low, rocky and indented with small islands, inlets and bays. In comparison, the west and southwest coasts and the southern portion of Southampton Island are a vast expanse of drowned swampland, fronted by extensive tidal flats reaching 9 km in width. Eskers, moraines, and raised beaches, results of the presence of glaciers, are common. Deltas and estuaries are important habitats.

The Wildlife

Some 40-50 freshwater, anadromous and Arctic and subarctic marine fish species are found in The Waters of the region, with Arctic charr, capelin, Arctic cod, ogac, sculpins and blennies being the most abundant. Upwards of 20,000 beluga summer along the west coast of the bay, with the densest concentrations in the larger estuaries, notably that of the Nelson River. The Coastal areas near Churchill constitute one of the highest density density polar bear denning areas in Canada. The bears' annual autumn concentrations along the Cape Churchill coast are quite exceptional as they gather to await the return of the ice and good feeding. The Hudson Bay tidal flats and inland marsh areas harbour some of the world's largest concentrations of breeding, moulting and migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Half the Eastern Arctic population of lesser snow geese breeds in the region, as well as considerable numbers of Canada geese, brant, oldsquaw, common eiders and loons. The region harbours some of the most important North American breeding sites for Hudsonian godwits and whimbrels, as well as one of the world's largest breeding concentrations of peregrine falcons.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Two representative marine areas have been identified: Churchill River/Nelson River and Rankin Inlet/Marble Island. The Churchill River/Nelson River area was subsequently selected as the preferred site for consideration as a possible national marine conservation area. Preliminary discussions with the governments of Manitoba and Nunavut and local groups are the next step. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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