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Plages de La Martinique et de Havre-Aubert (QC005)


Plages de La Martinique et de Havre-Aubert (QC005)

Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec

Latitude 47.296°N
Longitude 61.922°W
Altitude 0 - 10m
Area 7.23km²

Site Description

The beaches of Martinique and Havre-Aubert border the eastern side of Havre aux Basques lagoon. This lagoon is located between the Havre-Aubert and the Cap aux Meules islands in the Magdalen Islands archipelago. The beaches, which are contiguous, extend for 12.6 km and range from 20 to 40 m in width. The northern section is known as La Martinique beach, while the southern section is known as Havre-Aubert beach. Ammophila breviligulata is the nmost common dune plant, while the upper portions of these beaches and sand dunes are irregularly colonized by the less common Sea Lime-grass (Elymus arenarius). A highway, which separates the beaches from the Havre aux Basques Lagoon, a separate IBA is located on the leeward side of the dunes.


This stretch of beaches provides ideal nesting habitat for the globally vulnerable and nationally endangered Piping Plovers. Since at least 1974, Piping Plovers have consistently been recorded at this site. Their numbers have fluctuated from lows of only two birds in 1979 and 1990, to a peak of 20 birds, which was recorded during the 1996 International Piping Plover Census. An average of 7 pairs have been recorded here between 1995 and 1998, representing 3% of the Atlantic Canada population. Other seabirds such as terns, gulls, and gannets often feed close to the shore during the summer months. During fall migration, the beach is also often used by several species of shorebirds, particularlly Sanderlings and Whimbrel.

Conservation Issues

The Canadian Wildlife Service has been conducting research on the Piping Plovers at this site since 1987. These data are being used to develop programs that outline the threats affecting the Piping Plover population to both the residents and tourists. During the breeding season, fences are installed to limit access to sensitive areas, and signs outlining the importance of the area to nesting Piping Plovers are posted.

The popularity of these beaches for recreation has increased over recent decades, making disturbance a constant threat for the breeding plovers. In recent years several parking lots, boardwalks and a footbridge have been built so as to permit access to the beach without increasing dune destabilization. A municipal regulation, in place since 1995, prohibits the use of off-road vehicles on the beaches. However, some usage still occurs.

Fish Habitat

The area is a paradise for many marine animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. The deep-water of Gulf harbor a variety of crustaceans, mollusks and benthic fish, including the yellowtail flounder, the winter flounder and the Atlantic halibut, a species highly prized by commercial fishermen. The American lobster is a important economic resource in the region. Many species also inhabit the offshore waters. For example, the mackerel is important for both the fishing industry and for its role in the food chain. The sandy beaches are populated by Atlantic surf clam and by soft-shell clam, two species targeted by the local population for recreational fishing. The Atlantic surf clam is also fished commercially with hand tools and hydraulic dredges. Spartina marshes and numerous brooks are found in the area and they are used as feeding and resting areas for a variety of fish, such the rainbow smelt and American eel. Brooks are also used for the reproduction of some species, such as rainbow smelt.

The main pressures on fish habitat are related to port operations, navigation, dredging and increased coastal erosion (increased suspended sediment, increased noise, riprap, etc.).

Major species present:
American eel
American lobster
Atlantic halibut
Atlantic herring
Atlantic mackerel
Atlantic surf clam
Rainbow smelt
Soft-shell clam
Winter flounder
Yellowtail flounder

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Black-headed Gull
Number Year Season
Piping Plover
Number Year Season
7 - 141987Summer