Altitude 0 - 3m
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).
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.
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:
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.
Potential or Ongoing Threats
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 :
Sea pea / Beach pea