Île aux Loups Marins is located in the Grande Entrée lagoon, immediately to the west of Île de l'Est. It is a small circular island bordered by low cliffs; half of the island is covered by dead and dying coniferous forest, while the other half contains grassy meadows and areas of bare sand. The coniferous forest was comprised mostly of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) and White Spruce (Picea glauca) trees. The island is uninhabited and only accessible by boat from the harbour at Grande Entrée.
Île aux Loups Marins is the only site in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine archipelago that contained a significant colony of Double-crested Cormorants. An average of almost 1,950 cormorant nests was recorded (over 2% of the estimated Atlantic Canada population) during four surveys that were completed between 1979 to 1990 over this period. The most recent survey, which was completed in 1990, recorded 1,552 pairs of cormorants. Since this time the colony has decreased in size. In addition to the Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons also nested on the island with 35 pairs recorded in 1976. In 1990, however, only two pairs of herons were present.
At the beginning of the century, the largest gull colony in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine was found on Île aux Loups Marins, but populations decreased dramatically when cormorants and herons began to breed on the island. Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls have recently been observed in relatively large numbers. In 1990, 742 Herring Gull nests and 392 Great Black-backed Gull nests were recorded.
Both Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons nested within the mature coniferous forests on the island. These forests, however experienced rapid dieback in the 1990s due to the acidic feces from the birds. Now there are not enough mature trees to support a substantial colony of cormorants and herons, however this site has been retained as an IBA as it seems likely that the gull colony will continue to increase and may already be of significant size using IBA criteria. Colonial waterbird counts have not been made recently.
In Québec, provincial regulations give heronries special status as “Wildlife Habitat”. The colonies on Île aux Loups Marins, however, are still vulnerable to disturbance, or more direct persecution from boaters and visitors travelling from Grande Entrée and other islands. On more than one occasion people have been seen shooting the gulls and cormorants on this island.
Strong wind and tidal forces are gradually eroding the sandstone foundation of this and other islands in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Over time, the amount of available nesting habitat for seabirds will be reduced, though little preventative action can be taken. Although oil pollution may be a more preventable threat to the seabird colonies, it remains a ongoing concern due to the large numbers of vessels travelling through the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Located in a sandy area, the sector is mainly defined by the presence of salt marshes that are home to many marine fish and invertebrates. As the banks of lagoons generally have a gentle slope, the fine particles suspended in seawater, rich in nutrients, are deposited, promoting the development of these swamps gradually as the bottom of the lagoon rises. Around the islands, lagoons are used for aquaculture, shellfish harvesting and recreational activities. The slow current in eelgrass beds makes them a suitable environment for small fish such as stickleback and Atlantic silverside, the tautog tench, the mummichog and for benthic species, including the common crab. The crangon, also called sand shrimp, occupies an important place in the community. By their situation, their connections with the sea and the shallowness of the water collumn, lagoons are the favored growing habitats of American lobster and a spawning site used by many other marine species such as herring, flounder, Atlantic tomcod and rainbow smelt.
The main pressures on lagoons and fish habitats are related to human activities that have increased in recent decades: aquaculture, boating, recreational fishing and road infrastructure are some examples. The discharge of waste and silting are also issues of concern to the quality and sustainability of these habitats.
Major species present:
Crangon (sand shrimp)