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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Queen Charlotte Sound

The Water

The continental shelf is up to 95 km wide in this region. In Queen Charlotte Sound, three broad troughs over 350 m in depth slice inland across this shelf and are separated by wide shallow banks. Queen Charlotte Strait is a deep basin, while Johnstone Strait is a narrow channel with depths of up to 500 m. Upwelling, tidal mixing, tidal rips, whirlpools and eddies are common, resulting from complex bottom and coastline features and highly variable currents, with speeds of up to 18 km/hr in certain narrow passages.

The Coast

Faulting, extensive glaciation and sea level changes have carved the resistant rocks and littered the inshore area with islands, islets and shoals. The outer coastline is generally low-lying and flat, while the sheltered inner mainland coast is mountainous with many deep fjords and narrow channels.

The Wildlife

Subtidal communities are particularly rich, resulting in some spectacular diving, notably in the high current areas. Important spawning grounds for Pacific herring, rockfish, Pacific cod, sole, lingcod and sablefish are found throughout the continental shelf but are concentrated around the shallow banks. Salmon rivers dissect the mainland coast. Clams, shrimp and prawn are relatively abundant. Over a million seabirds breed in the region, including the largest concentrations of rhinoceros auklets, and Leach's and fork-tailed storm-petrels in British Columbia. Queen Charlotte Sound is also a vital feeding area for millions of breeding, summering and migrating seabirds and waterfowl. Grey whales, harbour and Dall's porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins and northern fur seals are common visitors, while harbour seals and Stellar sea lions make the region home. About 190 resident killer whales in 16 pods (close-knit family groups) cruise the southern waters of the region. A small population of sea otters has recently established itself along The Coast, a positive sign for the recovery of this endangered species.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Four representative marine areas have been identified: Blackfish Sound, Queen Charlotte Strait, Goose Island Bank and Laredo Sound. Selection of the preferred site for consideration as a possible national marine conservation area is the next step. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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