Reducing disturbance for whales in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine ParkFootnote *

What’s the issue?

A beluga whale surfacing.
A beluga whale surfaces while swimming in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. Photo: © Manuela Conversano

Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, established in 1998, was created in part to help protect marine wildlife – especially threatened whales, including the world’s most southerly population of beluga whales. Among other features, the park provides essential habitat – sheltered bays and rich estuaries – for migratory whales to feed and for beluga to give birth and care for their newborn calves. But industry, recreation and other human activity in this open marine environment can cause problems for beluga and other whales, which are sensitive to disruption in their environment, especially during vital activities like feeding and resting. Parks Canada is taking a cooperative approach to ensure sustainable use of the marine environment by working with partners towards calming the waters – a challenge that needs to be solved if this critical habitat and unique population of beluga are to recover.

What’s our approach?

  • Use an evidence-based approach to define where and when whales use specific areas of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park for vital functions such as calving and feeding; recommend approaches to reduce risk to the whales.
  • Use the best available scientific and local knowledge to work with regional, provincial and federal government organizations, and maritime stakeholders such as the tourism and shipping industries, on conservation measures.
  • Work with partners to implement these conservation approaches and monitor their effectiveness; communicate broadly with marine park users and Canadians to encourage understanding of and support for marine conservation.

What’s been accomplished?

  • Collected data on maritime traffic and published a scientific paper; completed a scientific review of the effectiveness of recovery measures.
  • Monitored and assessed voluntary protection measures – such as using lower speeds and avoiding certain areas – that reduce the risk of ships striking whales and that minimize the effect of noise in the marine park and surrounding waters.
  • Completed plans for a 2019 scientific review of the effectiveness of our protection measures to keep knowledge up to date and to adapt our management approach as necessary.
  • Continued to collaborate with partners from all sectors towards a sustainable strategy for protecting whale habitat; released an online brochure on the importance of the marine park.