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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

The Bay of Fundy

The Water

The Bay of Fundy is a 270 km long, generally funnel-shaped embayment with an 80 km wide mouth and two narrow extensions at its head (Chignecto Bay and Minas Basin). The bay is less than 150 m in depth and generally less than 50 m. Its bottom relief is generally irregular, characterized by shoals, channels, reefs, islets and islands, particularly at its mouth. The length and shape of the bay tends to accentuate the tides within the region, resulting in a tidal range which increases from 6 m at the entrance of the bay, to as much as 16 m at the head of the bay, which, along with Ungava Bay, are the world's highest. The combination of strong tidal currents (7-18 km/hr in some areas) and complex seafloor relief results in tidal rips, whirlpools, upwelling and intense mixing throughout the region. Open water conditions prevail year-round.

The Coast

The Bay of Fundy is a major structural embayment, the result of the opening of the Atlantic Ocean more than 160 million years ago, subsequently shaped by uplift, glaciation and erosion. Low-lying rocky shores predominate, interspersed with beaches and low eroding cliffs, though cliffs up to 200 m occur locally. Salt marshes and mud flats up to five km in width are common at the head of the bay.

The Wildlife

More than 800 species of benthic invertebrates have been reported in the marine region. The fish fauna is diverse, with over 100 species typically found in the bay. The more common species include include [Atlantic cod], herring, various flounders, hake, pollock, redfish, mackerel, haddock, halibut, and assorted sculpins, skates and sharks. Productivity is exceptionally high, and is greatest at the mouth of the bay. The area is critically important as a migratory staging area for millions of birds, and is also a significant summering and wintering area. At various times of the year important concentrations of gulls, terns, cormorants, phalaropes, dovekies, razorbills, black guillemots, common murres and sea ducks occur throughout the region. Up to 34 species of shorebirds are found here in the autumn, with the largest concentrations (as many as 1.5 million birds) feeding on the mud flats at the head of the bay. The region is particularly important to semipalmated sandpipers, with 42-74% of the world population staging here in any given year. From June to October, important concentrations of harbour porpoises, fin, minke, humpback, and sei whales are found, notably in the outer bay. The mouth of the bay is particularly important as a nursery area for the endangered right whale, mother-calf pairs and juveniles being the most commonly sighted. Harbour seals are resident and abundant.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. A study to assess the feasibility of creating a national marine conservation area in the West Isles area was suspended in 1986. A reexamination of area identification work in the marine region, with a view to identifying alternative representative marine areas, is 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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