Île Brion (QC007)
Altitude 0 - 60m
Île Brion is located about 16 km north of the main complex of the Magdalen Island archipelago, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The island is about 7.5 km long and has a maximum width of 1.6 km. About 75% of it is forested: the remainder being comprised of salt and freshwater marshes, rocky shores, and sandy beaches. The rocky substrate is comprised of red and gray-green sandstone. The mean annual temperature is 4.4°C and, during the summer, the average wind speed is 27 km/h. Some have suggested that the island could be viewed as an ecological microcosm of the main Magdalen Islands, with all of the main habitats from the archipelago being found in a pristine condition.
Île Brion supports significant breeding populations of several seabird species. As many as 500 adult Great Cormorants were recorded at the site in 1989, with nest counts from aerial photographs yielding an estimate of 116 nesting pairs. This represents about 1.8% of the estimated North American nesting population. Also present are large numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes, with estimates from the late 1980s ranging from 2,000 pairs to as high as 10,000 birds. In 1989, systematic counts from aerial photographs yielded an estimate of 2,879 pairs. This suggests the presence of about 1% of the estimated western Atlantic breeding population.
In addition to Great Cormorants and Black-legged Kittiwakes, substantial numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls also nest on the island. Several other colonial seabirds are also present in small numbers (Razorbill, Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, Leach's Storm-Petrel, Common and Arctic Tern, Common Eider). Also of note is a small nesting population of Horned Grebes. There are also historic records of breeding Piping Plovers (1 pair in 1982), but none have been recorded more recently. In all, about 150 bird species have been observed on the island, of which 80 have been identified as breeding species.
Between 1851 and 1972 there was permanent human occupation on Île Brion; but it is now uninhabited. About 90% of the island has been identified as a provincial ecological reserve, with access to the island now being controlled, and in some cases, completely restricted. Ecotourism pressure on the island remains moderate. On occasion, Red Fox have accessed Île Brion during the winter, and subsequently limited the breeding populations of ground nesting species like Common Eider, Leach's Storm-Petrel, Herring Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull during the following breeding season. Like other coastal sites in the Magdalen Island archipelago, Île Brion is susceptible to oil spills due to the sites location near the main shipping lanes that lead to the St. Lawrence seaway.
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.
Potential or Ongoing Threats
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:
Atlantic surf clam