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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Canada's Atlantic Marine Wildlife

Illustration showing 33 marine species which can be found beneath the waters of Canada's Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic marine wildlife
© Parks Canada / Dorothea Kappler, 1995

Benthic communities are very diverse, with a variety of marine plants, such as seaweeds and kelp, and numerous invertebrate species.

Though more than 500 species of marine fish have been recorded in the Canadian Atlantic, less than 300 species occur regularly. Important populations of groundfish, such as cod, redfish, haddock, pollock, plaice and flounder, and pelagic fish, such as hake, herring, tuna, capelin and salmon, are found in these waters.

Most of the seabird colonies are off Labrador, Newfoundland and the Quebec North Shore, where steep rocky cliffs and islands are found. All of the gannets and the great majority of the razorbills and puffins in North America, as well as most of the eastern NorthsAmerican population of common murres, breed in these areas. Migrating and wintering populations of waterfowl, shorebirds and seabirds concentrate, respectively, in the marsh habitats of the St. Lawrence estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, the mud flats of the Bay of Fundy and the open ocean off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

The total population of marine mammals which makes its way to Canada's East Coast each year far exceeds the human population – some 22 species of whales and dolphins, and six species of seals are attracted to the highly productive feeding grounds.

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