Language selection


Research Document - 2012/089

Review of the St. Lawrence Estuary Marine Protected Area Monitoring Plan and Indicators

By L. Provencher, R. Bailey, and C. Nozères


In 1998, the St. Lawrence Estuary MPA was proposed as a site to ensure the conservation and long-term protection of marine mammals, their habitats and food resources. As part of the establishment of this MPA, a monitoring plan was developed by the Science Sector of DFO to monitor the conservation objectives of the MPA.

The St. Lawrence Estuary is an important habitat for beluga whales and harbour seals that live there year round. It is also an important feeding area to many marine mammals, with high concentrations of forage species such as euphausiids (krill) and capelin. Nearly half of cetaceans encountered in the MPA are listed as species at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Marine mammals in this area face a multitude of threats, including contamination of the marine food chain by toxic substances, environmental noise, the risk of collisions, disturbance associated with navigation, entanglement in fishing gear, poaching, culling, and physical alterations of their habitats and those of their prey. These threats result in potentially harmful effects to marine mammals, such as mortality, disease, disturbance of important activities and habitat loss. These effects will affect the demographic variables of resident species, the presence of whales in the MPA and prey populations.

Tracking these threats and their potential effects on marine mammals are the basis of the monitoring plan developed for the St. Lawrence Estuary MPA. Following several expert consultations on marine mammals and their prey, a series of indicators and associated programs have been proposed to monitor the situation, the evolution of these threats, and their potential effects. At a peer review in May 2011 (MPO 2012a), the indicators and monitoring programs were evaluated according to three criteria: 1) the relevance of the indicator according to its suitability for evaluating the threat or targeted potential effect, 2) the reliability of monitoring associated with the indicator, and 3) the ease of implementing them. Also evaluated were indicators of ecosystem status, to detect changes or abnormalities in the environment that will affect the ecological components of the targeted conservation goals. The majority of relevant indicators may be monitored using existing programs with acceptable reliability and ease, although several of the programs should be expanded to cover the territory of the MPA. At least a quarter of the indicators will require the establishment of new monitoring programs.

Accessibility Notice

This document is available in PDF format. If the document is not accessible to you, please contact the Secretariat to obtain another appropriate format, such as regular print, large print, Braille or audio version.

Date modified: