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Plage de l'Hôpital (QC012)


Plage de l'Hôpital (QC012)

Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec

Latitude 47.473°N
Longitude 61.797°W
Altitude 0 - 10m
Area 20.57km²

Site Description

Plage de l'Hôpital is situated on the westerly half of Dune du Nord, which connects Île Cap aux Meules with Île de l'Est in the Magdalen Islands archipelago. Plage de l'Hôpital is 17.5 km long and ranges from 20 m to 40 m in width. Sand dunes separate the beach from the lagoon of Havre aux Maisons. Short-liguled Ammophila (Ammophila breviligulata) is a common plant on the dunes, while Sea Lime-grass (Elymus arenarius) is less common. These plant species help to stabilize the dunes and prevent erosion.


Plage de l'Hôpital provides important nesting habitat for the globally near threatened and nationally endangered Piping Plover. A considerable portion of the Atlantic Canada population is present at this site during the breeding season. Piping Plovers have been regularly using this area since 1979. Between 2006-2010 its population has ranged from 10 - 11 pairs.

Adjacent, and on the lagoon side of the beach, there is excellent habitat for shorebirds, particularly at ‘Le Barachois' at the south end. Ducks, rails, bitterns, and grebes are commonly found in marsh areas.

Conservation Issues

Recreational beach use on the Magdelen Islands has increased in recent years and has resulted in disturbances to nesting birds. Piping Plovers, a species listed as endangered by the COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), are particularly sensitive to disturbance. Since 1987, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Attention FragÎles (an ecological group of the Magdelen Islands) have been conducting research on the Magdelen Islands to develop protective measures for this species. The data collected are being used to design outreach programs that make both the residents and tourists more aware of the dangers facing Piping Plovers (information sessions, leaflets, kiosks, panels etc.).

In addition, municipal regulations were adopted in 1995 that prohibit the use of off-road vehicles on all beaches within the Magdelen Islands archipelago. However local habitats are still being degraded and disturbances to birds are ongoing which is fueling considerable debate. Areas restricting off-road vehicle use are not clearly delimited and activities such as kite surfing, shellfish harvesting, and buggies are common in the Grand Platier area. This IBA is also vulnerable to oil spills due to its location - the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is also concern about a potential oil drill site at Old Harry which is situated 80 km northeast of the Îles de la Madeleine.

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
Northern Gannet
Number Year Season
Piping Plover
Number Year Season
10 - 172006Summer
4 - 212001Summer
5 - 121995Summer
6 - 141994Summer
Loggerhead Shrike
Number Year Season