Gilbert Bay MPA

Location

Gilbert Bay is 60 km2 in size and is located approximately 300 km from Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Labrador's southeast coast. The bay is 20 km in length but less then 100 m deep with two narrow outlets to the sea, one at Williams Harbour Run and the other at Winard Tickle. This geophysical configuration contributes to the bay's unique character through semi-isolation from the Labrador Sea.

The boundaries of the Gilbert Bay MPA are based on the annual migration of Gilbert Bay cod. They include, from the low water mark, the waters of Gilbert Bay contained within lines drawn across the three entrances of the bay at Winnard Tickle, Williams Harbour Run and Main Tickle.

Within these boundaries, the MPA is divided into three management zones based on differences in the physical environments and habitats and their sensitivity to human activities.

Zone 1:

Two shallow areas in the upper reaches of the bay have been identified as sensitive due to their important spawning, rearing, feeding, and juvenile habitat for Gilbert Bay cod. These areas also have the highest concentrations of cod found within Gilbert Bay. Cod migrate to and from these areas on an annual basis. Due to the importance of these areas in the life cycle of the cod, these areas are given the highest level of management protection. This zone is also important for migrating salmon, char, and trout, and has a number of capelin beaches, and has pristine maerl beds.

Zone 1A consists of waters lying generally northwest of a rhumb line connecting points at 52°38'56" N, 55°59'28" W and 52°37'43" N, 55°59'36" W, that are within an area of the sea bounded by the low-water line of the bay and by the rhumb line to its points of intersection with the low-water line;

Zone 1B consists of waters lying generally southwest of a rhumb line connecting points at 52°37'00" N, 55°58'07" W and 52°36'49" N, 55°57'45" W, that are within an area of the sea bounded by the low-water line of the bay and by the rhumb line to its points of intersection with the low-water line.

Zone 2:

This zone is identified as the main arm of the bay, or the connecting body of water between Zones 1A and B and Zone 3. A smaller but important component of the cod population uses this zone for spawning, feeding and migrating between the outer part of the bay in the summer and the inner part in the fall.

Zone 2 consists of waters that are within an area of the sea bounded by the low-water line of the bay and by the following rhumb lines to their respective points of intersection with the low-water line, namely,

  • a line connecting points at 52°38'56" N, 55°59'28" W and 52°37'43" N, 55°59'36" W,
  • a line connecting points at 52°37'00" N, 55°58'07" W and 52°36'49" N, 55°57'45" W, and
  • a line connecting points at 52°36'16" N, 55°52'19" W and 52°35'38" N, 55°52'20" W; and

Zone 3:

This zone is described as the area from the coastal low water mark seaward to the three entrances connecting Gilbert Bay to the Labrador Sea. This is considered to be an important feeding area, particularly for mature cod that migrate from and through Zones 1 and 2. These cod are known to concentrate in a number of areas within Zone 3. Fin fish species diversity is considered to be highest in this area.

Zone 3 consists of waters that are within an area of the sea bounded by the low-water line of the bay and by the following rhumb lines to their respective points of intersection with the low-water line:

  • a line connecting points at 52°36'16" N, 55°52'19" W and 52°35'38" N, 55°52'20" W,
  • a line connecting points at 52°36'01" N, 55°51'08" W and 52°35'44" N, 55°50'42" W,
  • a line connecting points at 52°33'17" N, 55°46'27" W and 52°32'59" N, 55°46'58" W, and
  • a line connecting points at 52°33'25" N, 55°54'19" W and 52°33'01" N, 55°33'31" W.
Ecosystem

The waters of Gilbert Bay support a wide range of marine resources including several species of shellfish (mussels, scallops, sea urchins, snails, shrimp), cod, pelagic fishes (herring, capelin, salmon, eels, smelt, trout) and aquatic plants (eel grass, kelp). The area is also inhabited by several species of waterfowl including black ducks, geese and mergansers.

Since 1996, scientists from Memorial University of Newfoundland have conducted research in Gilbert Bay and have found the habitat supports a resident population of Atlantic cod. Through careful scientific analysis it has been determined that the "reddish-brown" cod are genetically distinct from other Labrador cod. Tagging and tracking of the cod has confirmed that the species remain in the bay year round.

Since this discovery, people from the local communities, scientists, and the Provincial Government have approached Fisheries and Oceans Canada to put measures in place to protect the unique ecosystem, including the various commercial and non-commercial fish species. On the basis of this support and existing information, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has selected Gilbert Bay as an Area of Interest (AOI) in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) program under the Oceans Act.

In October 2005, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the designation of the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area.

Management & Conservation

Historically, the Atlantic cod fishery was the most important commercial activity in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the northern cod stocks are at an extremely low level despite fishery closures and catch reductions since the early 1990’s. Gilbert Bay has been identified as one of the few coastal concentrations of northern cod in the Newfoundland region. MPA status for Gilbert Bay will help conserve and protect the cod population as well as provide indirect protection to other species and their habitats.

The physical characteristics of Gilbert Bay likely play a very important role in the establishment and continued support of the local cod population found there. Within Gilbert Bay, specific areas have been identified as important spawning areas and nursery habitats and, as such, these areas have been afforded the highest level of protection.

Gilbert Bay MPA Management Plan

Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area monitoring report (2009)

Review of the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area monitoring indicators, protocols and strategies, and an assessment of the Gilbert Bay cod population (2010)

Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area regulations can be found on the Justice Laws website.

Activity Applications

In Marine Protected Areas established under the Oceans Act, it is generally prohibited to carry out any activity that disturbs, damages, destroys or removes any living marine organism or any part of its habitat or is likely to do so. Despite this, there are exceptions to the prohibitions. Activities that may be allowed to occur in the Marine Protected Area are listed under the ‘exception’ section of the Marine Protected Area regulations.

In addition, for most Marine Protected Areas, certain types of activities (e.g., scientific research and monitoring, habitat restoration, commercial marine tourism, and educational activities) may be allowed to occur within the MPA if a proponent submits an activity plan to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The conditions for approval are outlined in the MPA regulations.

Research and Publications

Gilbert Bay MPA Management Plan

Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area monitoring report (2009)

Review of the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area monitoring indicators, protocols and strategies, and an assessment of the Gilbert Bay cod population (2010)

Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area regulations can be found on the Justice Laws website.

Date modified: