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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Laurentian Channel

The Water

The dominant feature of the region is the Laurentian Channel, a submarine valley of glacial origin 1400 km in length, sending tentacles of itself around Anticosti Island and along the west and south coasts of Newfoundland, with depths ranging from 180-550 m. Subtidal shelves under 100 m in depth and ranging in width from 10-55 km are common. Nutrient rich salty waters originating in the Atlantic are brought in at depth along this channel from the edge of the continental shelf, forming a deep water layer which is generally warmer than the surface layer. These waters are brought to the surface and mixed with those of the St. Lawrence River. The region has a nine-month open water season, with an ice cover of open pack ice mainly, though much of southwestern Newfoundland remains relatively ice free.

The Coast

The Coastline has evolved over time in response to sea level changes. Much of the coast is low relief, with a variety of coastal environments including fjords, low rocky shores, deltas, coastal bluffs, coastal dunes, barrier beaches and tidal flats. The fjord coast of southwest Newfoundland is an upland section with cliffs ranging from 200-450 m.

The Wildlife

Important capelin, Atlantic cod and herring spawning grounds are found in the region, while Atlantic salmon spawn in several rivers along The Coast. Because of its depth, the Laurentian Channel serves as a major break separating several stocks of shallow water fish species. Lobster, Iceland scallop and shrimp are common. Moderate numbers of breeding seabirds are found in the region, primarily gulls. Moderate pelagic concentrations of seabirds occur throughout the year and include various combinations of shearwaters, fulmars, jaegers, gulls and sea ducks. The region is a major summer feeding area for several species of marine mammals, primarily migratory cetaceans. Harbour porpoises, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, blue, humpback, right, fin, pilot, and minke whales are often sighted. Harp and hooded seals breed in the region, while grey seals are particularly numerous around Anticosti island. Harbour seals are resident and are found in all coastal areas.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Five preliminary representative marine areas have been identified: Anticosti Island/Gaspé Peninsula, Cow Head/Bay of Islands, Strait of Belle Isle, Cabot Strait and South Coast Fjords. Studies to confirm the representative marine areas, followed by selection of the preferred site for consideration as a possible national marine conservation area, are the next steps. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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