Péninsule de Forillon (QC039)
Altitude 0 - 225m
The Falaises de Forillon are on the easternmost part of Forillon National Park, the Péninsule de Forillon, within the Gaspé Peninsula, Québec. The Forillon peninsula is approximately 8 km by 1km wide, but the IBA includes only the northern cliffs from the easternmost point to Cap-des-Rosiers, and the sea outwards for two kilometres. The rocky cliffs reach a height of 225 m near the centre of the peninsula, and gradually diminish to 90 m at Cape Gaspé, the east end. In the past, regions of Forillon National Park have been transformed by human activities such as timber harvesting and agriculture, but now most of the land above the cliffs is forested. A total of seven species of whale have been observed. The mean annual temperature at this site is 3.5°C.
Two nationally endangered species have been found on the Péninsule de Forillon. Over 100 individuals of the eastern North American Harlequin Duck have been seen here during spring and fall migration. This represents approximately 6.7% of the estimated population. Some individuals have been fitted with radio transmitters in the park in an effort to learn more about this species' movements. And, in 1937, three Peregrine Falcons (ssp. anatum is nationally endangered) were recorded at this site. In 1992, Parks Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service introduced 32 individuals to the park but as of as of 2000 no peregrines had returned to the park to nest.
Significant numbers of Black-legged Kittiwake breed on the cliffs along the northern shore; 1704 nests in 1977, 3,807 pairs in 1979, 10,597 pairs in 1989 and 10,005 pairs in 1999 (perhaps 2% of the estimated North American population or 3% of the western Atlantic population). Additionally, 1% (794 pairs in 1989) of the estimated North American Black Guillemot population nest here. A valley that cuts across the peninsula between Grande-Grève and Cap Bon Ami is used as a passageway by many seabirds to move between the cliffs and Baie de Gaspé.
Other birds that nest at this site include: small numbers of Common Eider, Herring Gull (705 nests in 1977, 593 pairs in 1979, 429 pairs in 1989, 55 pairs in 1999), Great Black-backed Gull (4 pairs 1999), Razorbill (169 individuals in 1999), Common Murre (217 individuals in 1999). Some of the gulls prey fairly heavily on the kittiwake nestlings. Several decades ago, 12,000 Long-tailed Ducks were recorded here in winter.
The survival of seabirds in Forillon Peninsula is closely linked to the maintenance of lance and capelin populations. Although these small fish are not commercially harvested in the Gaspé region, this type of fishing is now carried out on the Lower North Shore of the St-Lawrence River. The fishery could eventually expand to include the waters bordering Forillon National Park, thereby reducing the available food supply.
When the park was established in 1970, the cliffs where the kittiwakes breed were classified as "special preservation zones". No development or access is permitted.
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.
Potential or Ongoing Threats
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