Research Document - 2013/086

Integrated report of the Ecosystem Research Initiative (ERI) in the Quebec Region for the project: Forage species responsible for the presence of rorqual whales in the St. Lawrence Lower Estuary

By Gagné, J.A., Ouellet, P., Savenkoff, C., Galbraith, P.S., Bui, A.O.V. and Bourassa, M.-N. Ed.

Abstract

In recent years, there has been a widespread need for an operational framework to apply ecosystem-based science to help resolve management issues related to the deteriorating state of marine ecosystems resulting from human activities including fisheries, industrial development, aquaculture, etc. In 2007, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans developed several regional Ecosystem Research Initiatives (ERI) to assess the implementation of the ecosystem approach.

One of these initiatives targets the St. Lawrence Estuary. This estuary is a biologically productive area which supports a wide variety of human uses and pressures that might present significant threats to its integrity and sustainable use. Based on planning workshops that involved scientists as well as internal and external clients and managers, two major themes were identified for a pilot project designed to test the implementation of this ERI: (1) summer habitats of the St. Lawrence beluga whale population that resides in the estuary throughout the year; and (2) ecological/oceanographical processes determining the presence of pelagic forage species and rorqual whales (blue, fin, etc.) touring this region on a seasonal basis. These two themes lead to an integrated scientific assessment that provided ecosystem-based advices in support of several management issues and conservation objectives at the scale of the ecosystem. The results will be valuable for the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, the implementation of recovery plans for species at risk (beluga and blue whale), and the anticipated establishment of the St. Lawrence estuary marine protected area.

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