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Baie de Gaspé (QC037)


Baie de Gaspé (QC037)

Gaspé, Québec

Latitude 48.772°N
Longitude 64.320°W
Altitude 0 - 15m
Area 271.99km²

Site Description

The Baie de Gaspé, at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, is about 35 km in length. The town of Gaspé is at the west end of the bay. Two sandspits cut across the bay including the 3 km long Sandy Beach Point. Included in the study site are the sandflats and cliffs near Douglastown, the cliffs between Bighead Cape, the open waters of the bay, the shores up to the high tide mark, and the estuaries and salt marshes where the St. Jean, York and Dartmouth rivers meet the bay. Vegetation is dominated by low marsh species and Eelgrass grows in grassy areas. Atlantic Salmon use the three rivers, while a few whale species-at-risk visit the bay at times. Florillon National Park lies on the northern border of this site.


The whole of the Baie de Gaspé provides excellent habitat year round for a variety of seaducks and other waterfowl. Aerial and ground surveys have been conducted here for the last 30 years along the shores of the bay. Due to the mostly ice-free water, Oldsquaw over-winter in high numbers, with peak concentrations occurring in December (16,800 maximum) and January (30,000). In spring, Brant are abundant - a maximum of 3,455 have been seen in May and 920 in April; the former number represents over 1% of the North American population. Barrow's Goldeneye occur from October through May, sometimes in continentally significant numbers. A peak of 130 birds (4.3% of the Special Concern eastern North American population) has been recorded in the spring, and up to 25 have been seen in the fall. The nationally endangered Harlequin Duck is also present in significant numbers, with up to 14 (over 1% of the eastern North American population) being seen in spring migration. The last waterbird survey, conducted in the spring of 1998, recorded large numbers of scoters including 1,534 Surf, 669 Black, and 2,148 unidentified scoters. Since some of these unidentified scoters are doubtless Black Scoter, the site is probably continentally significant for northeastern Black Scoter.

Common Terns nest on the grassy area of the Sandy Beach sandspit. The colony consisted of about 1,000 birds or more between 1986 and 1990 (1 to 2% of the North American population), but since then the colony has declined considerably in size. In 1993 only 164 pairs were present, and throughout the remainder of the 1990s, about 100 or so pairs nested here.

There are several seabird colonies in the bay. Black Guillemots breed in scattered locations along the coast and total probably 700 pairs. The Great Blue Heron colony of 459 birds (1983) at Penouille comes close to meeting national congregatory criteria for wading birds. Black-crowned Night-Herons nest in two locations: Anse aux Sauvages (190 birds in 1984) and Jacques-Cartier Point. It is uncertain if the heron colonies are still as large as this, or even present. Four Double-crested Cormorant colonies are found at La Grande Anse, Jacques-Cartier Point, Haldimand Cape and Bois-Brûlé. The last survey in 1989 showed that a total of 626 pairs of cormorants were colonizing these sites. Also, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls breed at Sandy Beach Point, near Douglastown, and other locations.

Short-eared Owl (nationally Special Concern) and Peregrine Falcon appear occasionally in spring migration. The regular presence of singing Yellow Rails (nationally Special Concern) in summer makes it very likely that the species breeds at the mouths of the Darmouth, York and St-Jean Rivers but confirmation is still needed; there could be up to 6 pairs present.

Conservation Issues

Portions of the Baie de Gaspé are very susceptible to disturbance of different forms: ecotourists, small boats and aquaculture activities (mussels). The Common Tern decline is thought to be in large part due to predation by gulls and mammals. The site is part of a Priority Intervention Area while the Sandy Beach area is designated as "wildlife habitat, bird colony". The Douglastown site is an Aquatic Birds Concentration Area. The York, Darthmouth and St. Jean rivers are protected as "Salmon Rivers".

Fish Habitat

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 eel
American sand lance
Atlantic herring
Atlantic mackerel
Atlantic salmon
Atlantic sea scallop
Atlantic tomcod
Blue mussel
Brook trout
Commun crab
Iceland scallop
Rainbow smelt
Soft-shell clam
Winter flounder
Witch flounder


The coastal area harbor a flora similar to that found along the shores of the estuary: sea pea, Scotch lovage, American searocket, sea milkwort, etc. However, there are two plants that played a key role in the dynamics of the coastal ecosystems: the American beachgrass and dune grass. These species are known to be important for “fixing sand dunes". These species are able to colonize sandy areas, where most other plants can't. Well adapted to arid conditions and equipped with a large root system, they were able to hold the soil, which then help to mitigate the erosion. In the barachois, the absence of marine currents and the shallowness of the waters favor the development of Marine eelgrass beds.

Coastal erosion is the main threat to the flora in these regions. Habitat destruction by humans (filling, draining of wetlands and shoreline riprap) is also a challenge. Risks of oil spill remain an issue of concern in theses areas.

Major species present :
American beachgrass
American searocket
Dune grass
Sea pea / Beach pea
Sea milkwort
Scotch lovage
Marine eelgrass

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Number Year Season
Long-tailed Duck
Number Year Season
10,000 - 30,0001990Winter
Northern Gannet
Number Year Season
Black-legged Kittiwake
Number Year Season
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
40 - 802016Spring
35 - 422015Winter
Number Year Season
920 - 3,4551990Spring
Black Guillemot
Number Year Season