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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada
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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan
The Grand Banks
The continental shelf is the widest in Canada and one of the widest in the world, extending up to 480 km from shore, and is less than 150 m deep over broad areas. The shelf is dominated by The Grand Banks of Newfoundland, a series of shallow banks, ranging in depth from 25-100 m, which extend for some 730 km along the south coast of Newfoundland and cover 280,000 km². Troughs, with depths in excess of 200 m, occur between the banks. The Coastal fjords are deep, generally over 250 m and some in excess of 700 m in depth. The Labrador Current floods The Grand Banks with cold water, which mixes with the warm water of the Gulf Stream in gyres and eddies around Flemish Cap, a shallow bank rising to within 51 m of the surface from depths in excess of 1800 m located some 600 km to the southeast. Upwelling is common, resulting in high productivity over the banks. The region is generally ice free all winter, though icebergs are fairly common, mainly far offshore. Intense storms are quite frequent, particularly during the winter months.
The Coastline is bold and indented, with many islands, bays and several fjords. Rocky shores and bedrock cliffs rising 150 m and more from the sea dominate the area, with some sandy shores and estuaries. Raised beaches are common locally
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland have always been one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The region is of vital importance as a spawning and nursery ground, feeding and wintering area to a wide variety of fish and shellfish species, including Atlantic cod, haddock, sand lance, herring, capelin, numerous flatfish (Atlantic halibut, yellowtail, witch and winter flounder and Canadian plaice), lobster and scallop. The region has the second largest Northern gannet colony in North America, as well as the only North American colony of Manx shearwaters, a species most commonly found breeding in Europe. Important pelagic concentrations of seabirds occur throughout the year, consisting primarily of shearwaters, gulls, alcids (dovekies and murres), petrels, kittiwakes and sea ducks including one of the largest concentrations of the endangered eastern population of the harlequin duck . The region sees a high diversity of marine mammals, all migrants save for the harbour seal. Hooded, harp and grey seals, harbour porpoise, white-beaked and Atlantic white-sided dolphins, killer, sei, pilot, blue, humpback, right, fin and minke whales are common.
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.)