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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 Environment


Hudson Strait Labrador Shelf Newfoundland Shelf Grand Banks North Gulf Shelf Newfoundland Shelf Scotian Shelf Bay of Fundy Magdalen Shallows Magdalen Shallows Laurentian Channel St. Lawrence River Estuary Grand Banks
Atlantic North
Atlantic South

Map showing Park Canada’s 10 Atlantic marine regions used in the context of its national marine conservation areas program
© Parks Canada, 1996


Group of Atlantic Puffins on the rocks of the Machias Seal Island colony in the Bay of Fundy
© Parks Canada / Francine Mercier, 1982

The Atlantic coastline stretches 52,000 km, representing 21% of Canada's ocean coastline.

The shoreline is predominantly rocky, with less than 2% formed of beaches or sand/mud tidal flats. Highlands and uplands surround a lowland plain that has been almost entirely drowned to form the Gulf of St. Lawrence. More than 100,000 islands dot the coastline.

The continental shelf ranges in width from less than 150 km off Labrador to 480 km on the Grand Banks. Combined with the mixing of the water column by tides, winds and currents, these wide, shallow banks are among the most productive in the world.

The tides vary considerably within this environment. The range is about 9-12 m in the north, but throughout the rest of the area it is typically on the order of 0.4-2 m. The tides at the head of the Bay of Fundy and Ungava Bay are the exception: at over 16 m, they are the highest in the world

The cold Labrador Current, mixing Arctic water with Atlantic water coming across from Greenland, has a pervasive influence on our Atlantic environment and limits the effect of any warmer currents, such as the Gulf Stream

Ice conditions range from seasonal landfast and pack ice conditions to year-round open water. Icebergs are a prominent features, particularly along the east coast.

Group of Red-necked Phalaropes feeding in the Bay of Fundy
© Parks Canada / Francine Mercier, 1982

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