Western/Emerald Banks Conservation Area (restricted fisheries zone)
- Scotian Shelf Bioregion (Nova Scotia)
- Approximate Size (km2) contribution to Marine Conservation Targets
- 10,234 km2
- Approximate % coverage contribution to Marine Conservation Targets
- Conservation Objective
- Support productivity objectives for groundfish species of Aboriginal, commercial, and/or recreational importance, particularly NAFO Division 4VW haddock
- Manage the disturbance of benthic habitat that supports juvenile and adult haddock and other groundfish species
Ecological Components of Interest
Species of regional importance: Groundfish (multiple species)
- Why they are important: Fisheries for groundfish are economically important, and multiple species are currently considered to be depleted or have been assessed as at-risk.
Habitat that is important to biodiversity conservation: Complex benthic-shelf habitat
- Why it is important: Significant spawning and nursery ground for haddock.
The ecological components of interest are effectively conserved through the following prohibitions:
All commercial and recreational fisheries using bottom-contact gear and/or gear known to interact with groundfish.
No human activities that are incompatible with the conservation of the ecological components of interest may occur or be foreseeable within the area.
The Western/Emerald Banks area is characterized by a complex array of sediments and bedforms, including bank and trough habitats. This type of habitat complexity has been associated with high adult fish and invertebrate diversity compared to other Eastern Scotian Shelf banks. Fish species including herring, halibut, silver hake, American plaice, redfish, and yellowtail flounder inhabit this area.
The Western/Emerald Banks are noted as important habitat for Atlantic cod, American plaice and winter skate, which are considered depleted species that have been assessed as at-risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
The presence of a partial gyre near the Western/Emerald Banks leads to increased retention of larval fish and locally increased zooplankton diversity, a primary larval food source. Correspondingly, larval fish diversity is exceptionally high compared to other areas on the Eastern Scotian Shelf.
Prohibition on bottom-contact gear can protect not only the spawning and juvenile haddock, but a diversity of other groundfish and invertebrate species that use the complex bank habitat. This area can act as a refuge that may contribute to increased species productivity, which in turn, could potentially lead to increased abundance within and adjacent to the area.
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