American Bank AOI

Location

American Bank is a submarine bank lying off the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in the Quebec portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has a least depth of 12 m and comprises two shelves separated by a sharp ridge. American Bank lies entirely within the 1000-km2 Area of Interest.

Ecological Importance

The American Bank is characterized by the diversity of its habitats, seasonal or year-round occurrence of many commercially important species and whales, the presence of species at risk and a high diversity of molluscs and crustaceans. The area also has significant potential as a feeding ground for various species of fish and marine mammals and as refuge habitat for declining groundfish populations, including the southern Gulf cod stock. It has traditionally been a much sought-after fishing area.

The establishment of a Marine Protected Area would promote the productivity and diversity of species including many commercial ones and the recovery of species at risk found in this particular area.

Key Objectives and Approach

The goal of the proposed Marine Protected Area is to foster the productivity and diversity of fishery resources associated with the American Bank and adjacent plains, and the recovery of species at risk.

The conservation objectives are:

  1. To conserve and protect benthic habitats (sea floor)
  2. To conserve and protect pelagic habitats (open water) and forage species
  3. To protect species at risk
Research and Publications

In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) selected the American Bank as an Area of Interest for establishing a marine protected area. This approach has three objectives: preserve and protect sea floor habitats providing food and shelter for juvenile fish; conserve and protect pelagic habitats (water column) and forage species (prey); protect endangered species including whales and wolffish.

To define appropriate habitat conservation and protection measures, available habitats and species on the site must be well known and their positions accurately defined. Thus, in July 2014, a DFO scientific team boarded CCGS Leim to survey the American Bank. The purpose of the mission, initiated in 2012, was to complete the characterization of the bottom and species associated with the site, using underwater imaging equipment towed along the bottom. A sled equipped with a camera and a high-definition video camera was used. The imagery obtained, coupled with multibeam sonar survey data, is the ideal tool for mapping and characterizing the seabed in such a vast area.

During the same season, the scientific team started characterizing suitable Atlantic Wolfish habitats. The team went scuba diving with a remote-controlled submarine equipped with a video camera, known as an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), to inspect escarpments along the sharp ridge of the American Bank. The information collected during these missions is essential for correctly guiding regulations for the future marine protected area. It also will provide baseline conditions for assessing the success of the monitoring plans that will need to be implemented when it is designated.

2012 three-dimensional representation of the ridge (middle section) of the American Bank and sampling stations using benthic imaging

The seabed is covered with very colourful organisms.

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