Barachois-de-Malbaie is a lagoon near the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, 11 km north of Percé, Québec. The site encompasses an area between a long, narrow sandbar and Highway 132 to the west. A variety of aquatic and upland habitats, such as marsh, forest and raised bog are found behind the sandbar. Bog habitat is quite rare in the region and the site contains the Bigelow dwarf huckleberry, a plant species designated as threatened in Québec. A high diversity of zooplankton and other benthic fauna reflect the high productivity of the water.
Barachois de Malbaie is an important stopover area for migrating waterfowl, especially geese and dabbling ducks. In spring, large numbers of Brant (eastern subspecies hrota) congregate to feed at this site. A high count of 2,000, in 1979, represents about 1.6 % of the eastern subspecies' population.
The Malbaie sandbar checklist (1978) has 189 species: this avian diversity is impressive considering the site's small size. Of the 189 species on the checklist, 102 breed on-site, 65 are migrants, and the remaining birds are classified as occasional vagrants. The number of species frequenting the site is 155 during spring and fall migration, 124 in summer and 20 in winter. The site is favourable to migrating dabblers like American Black Duck (685 birds in fall migration, 1976), Green-winged and Blue-winged teal, Mallard, and Wood Duck. Canada Geese can be seen in the spring in large numbers. For instance, 6,000 birds were recorded in 1982. Large flocks of gulls, terns, herons, cormorants and shorebirds are also commonly seen. Offshore, especially in fall, groups of divers and pelagic birds like Northern Gannet and Black-legged Kittiwake can be found.
This sandbar is one of five sites in the region offering favourable habitat for breeding Yellow Rail; the marsh can support up to five potential breeding males. It is one of only two sites in the province where nests of this secretive species have been discovered.
Two species that are classified as nationally at risk, Harlequin Duck (eastern population) and Short-eared Owl, frequent the site in low numbers during migration. Other species that breed very locally in Québec, can be observed at the site. These species include Horned Grebe, Caspian Tern and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
Forest exploitation and railroad construction have already altered some parts of the sandbar, especially along the coastal ridge. The site is part of the Baie-des-Chaleurs Priority Intervention Zone. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has acquired 0.58 km2 of land for preservation. The organization is leading stewardship and control activities as well as wildlife and plant species monitoring in the IBA. The barachois area is managed by a local committee (Comité de concertation du barachois de Malbaie) responsible for the development and protection of the Barachois de Malbaie with a view to sustainable development.
This region is typified by a mosaic of habitats which host a wide range of marine and migratory species. The barachois, the eelgrass beds and the river's estuaries are key habitats for many species of fish and shellfish such as sticklebacks, winter flounder and soft-shell clam. At sea, the Atlantic mackerel, the Atlantic herring, the rainbow smelt, the American lobster, the snow crab, the common crab and the scallop are harvested commercially. At the beginning of the summer, capelin is rolling on the beaches to spawn. The presence of several salmon rivers in the area attracts many anglers. These rivers are also home to brook trout and American eel.
The major pressures on the ichthyofauna are overfishing and destruction of fish habitat, such as the draining of wetlands and the modification of the shoreline (erosion, riprap). Forestry is also a threat because it causes significant alterations in the rivers of the area, such as increasing the sediment load, the modification of both water flow and water temperature.
Major species present:
American sand lance
Atlantic sea scallop
|2,500 - 3,000||1982||Fall|
|3,000 - 5,000||1976||Fall|
|45 - 50||2015||Winter|
|70 - 170||2014||Winter|
|35 - 40||2014||Fall|
|40 - 115||2013||Winter|
|85 - 150||2012||Winter|
|60 - 100||2011||Winter|
|60 - 75||2011||Fall|