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Rimouski (QC041)


Rimouski (QC041)

Rimouski, Québec

Latitude 48.501°N
Longitude 68.487°W
Altitude 0 - 3m
Area 46.81km²

Site Description

Rimouski IBA is located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, extending from le Rocher Blanc, west of the city of Rimouski, to Pointe-au-Père in the east. It encompasses the entire bay, including the Islet Canuel, St. Barnabe Island, and Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area. While several rivers flow into the bay, Rimouski River is the primary one. The surrounding environment is mostly urbanized - the city of Rimouski is the regional capital of the Lower St. Lawrence.

The coastal portion of this IBA includes parcels of wetlands. Spartina marsh is prevalent and small stands of sedges, shrubs, and grassy areas with alder and willow extend landward, beyond the tidal zone. Fallow lands with poorly drained meadows and mixed forest also form a riparian fringe. A large mud flat, sea kelp, and eelgrass meadows stretch between Rimouski and the island of St. Barnabe. These intertidal habitats are mostly free of seawater at low tide.

Pointe-au-Père marsh is a mosaic of wetlads that are part of the National Wildlife Area. Ste. Anne Brook crosses this area from east to west and the whole area is completely flooded during high tides. Pointe-au-Père also includes a federally owned port which has been converted into a maritime historical interpretive center (the renowned submarine Onondaga being the main attraction). A large parking and a picnic area were converted to accommodate visitors of the Pointe-au-Père maritime historical site.

The island of St. Barnabe is about 5 km long and is situated directly across from the city of Rimouski. The island supports diverse habitats such as mixed woods, wetlands, and fallow lands. West of St. Barnabe Island, facing Rocher Blanc area, lies the Islet Canuel (a smaller islet formed of quartzite).


Marais de Point-au-Père is a significant stopover site for waterfowl and shorebirds, in both spring and fall. Greater Snow Goose is the dominant waterfowl species in spring, with globally significant numbers of 25,000 (almost 4% of the North American Greater Snow Goose population) passing through the site. Barrow's Goldeneye is also present in spring, with as many as 150 birds recorded at one time; this number represents 5% of the eastern continental population.

The coastal marsh habitat here is one of six locations in the mid and lower St. Lawrence estuary that are considered exceptional for the Common Eider. Although eiders do not nest in high numbers, the marsh is very important to the survival of the regional breeding population. The site is especially important for feeding and brood rearing. Groups of over 1,000 are regularly present during the post-breeding dispersal period but a count of 2,600 in August 1991 was continentally significant.

During spring migration, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher use the site in globally significant numbers. In 1972, 1,000 Least Sandpipers were counted (just over 1% of the global population). In 1983 and 1985, over 1% of the global populations of Greater Yellowlegs (250 birds) and Short-billed Dowitcher (1,365 birds) respectively, were recorded. In fall migration, an additional four shorebird species use the site in globally significant numbers. In 1986, 1,600 Ruddy Turnstones (4% of the global population), 2,000 White-rumped Sandpipers (4% of the global population) and 3,000 Dunlin (ssp. hudsonia) (3% of the global population) were recorded. Finally, more than 1,000 Black-bellied Plovers have been recorded, which is a globally significant concentration. Other, less abundant shorebird species that use this site include Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Red Knot, Pectoral and Purple Sandpiper. Semipalmated Sandpiper is the most common shorebird at this site; in 1985, 4,500 birds were counted.

Of the 120 species recorded at Marais de Pointe-au-Père, about 20 are known to breed on site. Three species that are classified as nationally at risk occur at this site in small numbers during migration: Short-eared Owl (vulnerable), Peregrine Falcon (threatened) and the eastern population of Harlequin Duck (endangered).

Conservation Issues

The St. Lawrence Seaway is subject to heavy shipping traffic which puts birds and ecosystems at risk from oil spills. Furthermore, the nature and extent of contamination of certain sectors of the IBA (caused by inadequate waste water systems used in the past) are not well documented. Pointe-au-Père and surrounding areas are subject to heavy road traffic and tourist activity due to the popularity of the submarine Onondaga and the historic lighthouse (owned by Parks Canada). Access to Saint-Barnabé Island is regulated (public access is restricted between Labor Day in September and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in June) which, in part, minimizes the negative impacts by recreationists. However, herons nesting in close proximity to the primary access point of this island are highly vulnerable to disturbance. Problems associated with coastal erosion are widespred within this IBA and are amplified by the intensive use of the surrounding environment - urbanization, riprap, and trampling of shoreline vegetation. Where paths are heavily used, the fragile or uncommon flora is compromised by unintended trampling or collection. This is a threat to subalpine maritime species found at the Rocher Blanc, an area where people are veering from the designated trails. A similar problem has been identified on Saint-Barnabé Island, where some uncommon plant species are found. More than 20 species of shorebirds use the coastal portions of the IBA during migration (July -October). Several of these shorebird species are declining in numbers and may be disturbed by the increasing recreational use of these beaches. The IBA includes a federal National Wildlife Refuge and eight provincial designations aimed at protecting wildlife habitat where waterfowl concentrate. The site is also included in the Priority Intervention Zone of the Sud-de-l'Estuaire. The Comité ZIP du Sud-de-l'Estuaire is responsible for several conservation initiatives, including the creation of an IBA committee with local stakeholders; educational activities in high schools and elementary schools; renaturalization of the beach and the saltmarsh in Nazareth; as well as Japanese knotweed control measures, an invasive alien species.

Fish Habitat

The landscape of the are is made out of Spartina marsh, eelgrass beds, rocky shores and gravel or pebbles beaches. Some rivers are hosting rainbow smelt spawning runs (the south shore population of the St. Lawrence middle estuary). At the beginning of the summer, it is possbile to observe capelin rolling on the beaches during spawning. The downstream migration of American eel toward their breeding sites in the Atlantic, which takes place in the fall, allows the capture of migraing adults using fishing weirs. Two other species commercially exploited are also roaming in the open waters of the estuary: the Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic herring.

Loss of fish habitat remains a major problem in the region. The dikes, for example, reduce the number of spawning habitats, while agricultural along the coast, the residential development and the presence of resorts together with coastal erosion are resulting in the destruction of several riparian ecosystems.

Major species present:
American eel
American shad
Atlantic herring
Atlantic sturgeon
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)


The salinity of the St. Lawrence water has a strong influence on the flora of the coastal habitats. Salt marshes are dominated by saltmeadow cordgrass, tall cordgrass, red fescue and chaffy paleacea. Present in a variable proportion, a variety of plants typical of estuarine environments: sea pea, Scotch lovage, American searocket, sea milkwort, etc. In areas submerged where substrate is thin, and water velocity is small, eelgrass grows. Eelgrass beds are home to an amazing biodiversity: shellfish, crustacean, fish, etc. which attract many predators. Several fish-eating birds such as the great blue heron come to take a meal. The Brant goose is closely linked with this habitat since the underground parts of the eelgrass are at the basis of its diet.

Habitat loss, whether caused by human interventions (wetland drainage, road construction, urban spread, etc.) or through natural phenomena (coastal erosion) severely impact the flora. Similarly, water pollution and risks of oil spills are issues of special concern for the flora and fauna of these areas.

Major species present :
American searocket
Chaffy paleacea
Marine eelgrass
Red fescue
Saltmeadow cordgrass
Scotch lovage
Sea milkwort
Sea pea / Beach pea
Tall cordgrass

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Surf Scoter
Number Year Season
10,000 - 15,0002001Fall
Rusty Blackbird
Number Year Season
24 - 352018Spring
Red-throated Loon
Number Year Season
1,429 - 2,9982018Spring
310 - 1,1812017Spring
435 - 2,9582016Spring
408 - 1,5072014Spring
Black Scoter
Number Year Season
4,613 - 8,7272018Fall
2,630 - 6,9012018Spring
2,986 - 5,1322017Fall
Number Year Season
Number Year Season
611 - 8242017Fall
Northern Gannet
Number Year Season
1,200 - 1,2062017Spring
1,390 - 1,4192015Spring
Black-bellied Plover
Number Year Season
500 - 5201987Fall
500 - 5501986Fall
500 - 2,0001985Fall
500 - 6001984Fall
500 - 7001982Fall
600 - 1,0001980Fall
500 - 2,0001978Fall
500 - 6001977Fall
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
146 - 2432018Winter
92 - 1612018Fall
255 - 2942018Spring
34 - 1262017Winter
34 - 472017Fall
34 - 1052017Spring
53 - 3502016Winter
91 - 3002016Spring
47 - 752015Winter
39 - 452015Fall
70 - 2562015Spring
70 - 2792014Winter
49 - 1452014Spring
37 - 422013Winter
30 - 401997Spring
30 - 501996Spring
20 - 501995Fall
20 - 361994Spring
22 - 251991Fall
40 - 501990Fall
20 - 501989Winter
40 - 551989Fall
20 - 481986Spring
20 - 751985Spring
20 - 1001984Spring
20 - 401983Spring
20 - 501982Spring
21 - 271982Winter
25 - 291981Winter
25 - 351981Fall
52 - 601981Spring
20 - 1501979Spring
20 - 251978Spring
20 - 1001974Spring
25 - 751972Spring
50 - 751971Fall
Loggerhead Shrike
Number Year Season
Number Year Season
Short-billed Dowitcher
Number Year Season
74 - 1252004Spring
1,000 - 1,3651985Spring
Great Black-backed Gull
Number Year Season