Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area (MPA)

Note:

Charts, diagrams and contact information on this website are provided for information purposes only and should not be used for fishing, navigation or other purposes. Please refer to the MPA Regulations or contact your regional Fisheries and Oceans Canada office for official coordinates.

At-A-Glance

At-A-Glance

Map: Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Map: Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Dataset for all MPAs available.

Video: Banc-des-Américains: a treasure for marine life in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Banc-des-Américains is a marine protected area that’s being explored using high-quality imagery obtained through the use of ROPOS, a remotely operated Canadian submersible.

Video: Banc-des-Américains: a treasure for marine life in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Banc-des-Américains is a marine protected area that’s being explored using high-quality imagery obtained through the use of ROPOS, a remotely operated Canadian submersible.

Location

Off the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula; Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence bioregion.

Note:

The Marine Protected Area (MPA) is known as the "Banc-des-Américains." The underwater slope is called the "American Bank."

Approximate Size (km2) contribution to Marine Conservation Targets

1,000 km2

Approximate % coverage contribution to Marine Conservation Targets

0.02%

Conservation Objectives

To promote the productivity and diversity of fisheries resources (species fished) and the recovery of species at risk. These resources frequent the site because of the quality of the habitat of the ridge and the adjacent plains.

  1. Conserve and protect benthic (seabed) habitats;
  2. Conserve and protect pelagic (water column) habitats and forage species (prey);
  3. Promote the recovery of at-risk whales and wolffish.
Designation date

The Canada-Quebec joint project agreement regarding the Banc-des-Américains MPA (available in French) was signed in March, 2019.

The Banc-des-Américains MPA was designated by Regulations on March 6, 2019.

Note:

The Banc-des-Américains is the first joint project under the Canada-Quebec Collaborative Agreement for the Establishment of a Network of Marine Protected Areas in Quebec (available in French). This area will have dual status: an aquatic reserve under Quebec law, and a designated marine protected area under the Oceans Act. The Banc-des-Américains MPA is the federally regulated portion of the joint Canada-Quebec project for marine protected areas.

Prohibitions

The Banc-des-Américains MPA Regulations prohibit any activities that disturb, damage, or remove living marine organisms or any part of their habitat, unless the activity is listed as an exception in the Regulations or approved by the Minister.

Environmental Context

The 1,000-square-kilometre Banc-des-Américains marine protected area includes the entire submarine bank known as the American Bank, as well as the adjacent plains. This bank peaks at 12 metres below the water surface and is composed of two shelves separated by a sharp ridge.

The area supports an extraordinary range of marine habitats and species, including an abundance of commercially fished species. There are also many forage species (prey) such as capelin, herring, sand lance and krill. The area also has significant potential as a feeding ground for various species of fish and marine mammals, and could be an important habitat for groundfish populations. It has traditionally been a coveted fishing area.

Ecosystem

Ecosystem

The Banc-des-Américains MPA is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Near Cape Gaspé and Bonaventure Island to the west, it stretches 35 km eastward, off the Gaspé Peninsula coast. The MPA includes the seabed and the subsoil to a depth of 5 m. The area is in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence bioregion and in Regulatory Area 4T of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). The site’s particular rock formation and the Gaspé current that carries nutrients are at the primary reasons for the wide variety of habitats and marine species found in this area.

The MPA is frequented by a number of commercially fished species and marine mammals, including species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), such as the Atlantic population of blue whales. Approximately fifteen cetacean species are observed every year in the region, which is a feeding ground and an essential migration route to and from the St. Lawrence Estuary. The Leatherback Sea Turtle, an endangered species and the largest reptile in the world, has been observed in the area. Currently, the area is home to the Atlantic wolffish, a species of special concern, and one which is particularly fond of the rocky cavities found there. Moreover, species at risk as rare as the Spotted and the Northern wolffish have both been captured in the area. The MPA is an important feeding, spawning, shelter and migration area for many of these species.

Offer to produce in both official languages:

This report uses scientific and technical terms and is published in the official language of the working group or scientific expert that produced the document. If this document is not accessible to you in the official language of your choice, please contact the Quebec Regional Office at Oceans-QC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Video: The American Bank, a world to discover, a treasure to preserve. A camera is deployed from the deck of a Canadian Coast Guard vessel at the American Bank. Thus begins a discovery of the site’s landscape, fauna and flora at depths of between 15 and 130 metres. From 15 to 20 metres, we see Atlantic cod, a sculpin, Atlantic wolffish and cunners. From 20 to 30 metres, we see plumose anemones, and at 30 to 40 metres, beadlet anemones and sea cucumbers. From 40 to 60 metres, we see green sea urchins and lyre crabs. Last, we can see basket stars from 60 to 130 metres before re-ascending.

Video: The American Bank, a world to discover, a treasure to preserve.

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

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

Management and conservation

Management and conservation

A school of capelin observed on the plain of the MPA. Copyright Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

A school of capelin observed on the plain of the MPA. © Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The seabed is covered with very colourful organisms. Copyright Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The seabed is covered with very colourful organisms. © Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The purpose of the marine protected area is to promote the productivity and diversity of fishery resources (fished species) in the American Bank and the plains adjacent to it, as well as the recovery of species at risk. This goal will be achieved through the following conservation objectives:

  1. Conserve and protect benthic (seabed) habitats;
  2. Conserve and protect pelagic (water column) habitats and forage species (prey);
  3. Promote the recovery of at-risk whales and wolffish.

The most important commercial activities in the area are fishing, navigation, and tourism activities. An assessment of the impact of these human activities on the achievement of the conservation objectives has been completed.

A management plan is being developed. This plan will describe the approach taken to manage activities within the area. It will explain the key requirements of the Regulations, the allowable activities, and will define management priorities.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will ensure compliance and enforcement of the Regulations and conservation measures. These activities will be carried out pursuant to the mandate and responsibilities under the Oceans Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Species at Risk Act as well as other departmental legislation related to fisheries conservation, environmental protection, habitat protection and maritime safety. The Banc-des-Américains MPA Regulations will be enforced by designated law enforcement agents pursuant to section 39 of the Oceans Act and violations will be dealt with under section 37 of the Oceans Act.

Activity Application

Activity application for Banc-des-Américains MPA

Scientific research or monitoring activities, habitat restoration activities, as well as educational or commercial marine tourism activities are permitted in the Banc-des-Américains MPA, if the proponent submits an activity plan to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and receives approval from the Minister.

Begin Activity Application process

Research and Publications

Research and Publications

Anemones, sponges, and other organisms on the American Bank. Copyright Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Anemones, sponges, and other organisms on the American Bank. © Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

In order to define appropriate conservation and protection measures, available habitats and species on the site must be well known and their locations identified. Several types of research activities have been conducted on the sea floor and the adjacent plains of the American Bank.

For example, a scientific team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada boarded the CCGS Leim to survey the American Bank. This mission helped characterize the sea bed and confirm the presence of the species associated with the site. The team used a sled equipped with a camera and a high-definition video camera to collect images for a better understanding of this vast territory.

The scientific team also went diving and used a remote-controlled submarine equipped with a video camera to inspect the escarpments along the sharp ridge of the American Bank. Although this portion of the site is the most difficult to reach, it is of great interest as these habitats are suitable for the Atlantic wolffish.

In addition, Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologists from Quebec, Gulf and Maritime regions participated in an outstanding scientific mission in partnership with Oceana Canada. The mission took place aboard the CCGS Martha L. Black and used a ROPOS (Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science) submarine in order to capture never-before-seen images and videos of the steep cliff of the American Bank. Equipped with an articulated arm, this autonomous underwater vehicle has also collected samples of water, organisms, and sediments, thereby allowing scientists to better understand this place.

These missions have established an information baseline that serves as a reference. Following the designation, an ecological and scientific follow-up has been established and will be carried out. The information collected will be compared to the baseline, which will then measure the success of conservation measures that were implemented when the MPA was designated. Other scientific activities are also planned in the coming years to further characterize the site.

Offer to produce in both official languages:

These reports use scientific and technical terms and are published in the official language of the working group or scientific expert that produced the document. If these documents are not accessible to you in the official language of your choice, please contact the Quebec Regional Office at Oceans-QC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

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