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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada
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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan
The region is predominantly deep with depths of nearly 500 m attained very close to shore along the undersea cliffs and canyons. Ungava Bay is less than 150 m in depth. The mean tidal range is on the order of 5-9 m in most of the region, reaching a peak of some 15-18 m in southwestern Ungava Bay, comparable to those in the Bay of Fundy which boasts the world's highest tides. These large tides and the currents they engender prevent Hudson Strait from having more than 60 percent ice cover in winter. The ice-free period lasts three to four months during the summer. Icebergs are a familiar sight along east Baffin Island and in eastern Hudson Strait. Geographically, this region is identified with the Arctic, but oceanographically it has more in common with the Atlantic marine regions. Atlantic water from the West Greenland Current, shunted across Davis Strait from Greenland, mixes with the Arctic waters coming out of Hudson Bay. The prominence of both Arctic and Atlantic water masses results in a greater diversity of plankton, invertebrate and fish species.
This bedrock coast is highly indented with numerous inlets, islands, sounds, bays and a few fjords. Over much of the region, cliffs and headlands rise 200-300 m from the sea, while Ungava Bay is predominantly low-lying with extensive tidal flats.
Some 60 Arctic, subarctic and Atlantic marine, anadromous and freshwater fish species have been recorded here, with Greenland halibut forming the basis of a small commercial fishery in Cumberland Sound. One of the world's largest thick-billed murre colonies is found at Akpatok Island in Ungava Bay, with about 1.5 million birds. Black guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous, Iceland and herring gulls, northern fulmars and common eiders are also abundant nesters throughout the region. The eastern end of Hudson Strait is a vital feeding area for seabirds. Two endangered beluga whale populations are found here, one in Cumberland Sound and the other in Ungava Bay. Hudson Strait is the main migration route for beluga, bowhead and narwhal heading for Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin. Large numbers of these same species winter in the open waters of eastern Hudson Strait and the open pack ice of Davis Strait. Northern bottlenose whales are found in the deep waters offshore. Ringed seals are abundant in the region and a major hooded seal breeding area is located in Davis Strait. Polar bears are particularly abundant in the eastern part of the region, and many important denning areas have been recorded along that coast.
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.)