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Assessment of potential impacts on marine mammals from the reconstruction project of the Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine landing docks

Quebec Region Science Special Response Process (SSRP)

Mont-Joli, QC
August 2011

Chairperson: Charley Cyr


The existing ferry boats between Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine, operating since 1980, have reached the end of their useful life. In 2013, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ) will replace these ferries with two new ships of greater capacity. Although slightly larger, the new ferries would be able to operate with the existing infrastructures. However, they would be affected by operational constraints, including the inability to guarantee service during high tide. Therefore, to enable optimal use of the new ferries, the STQ would like to expand one of two access ramps at each of the landing docks.

The reconstruction project of the Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine landing docks is not subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and does not require an authorization pursuant to subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act (FA). However, the increase in underwater noise caused by drilling and sawing activities could disturb or harm marine mammals present at the mouth of the Saguenay River, particularly the St. Lawrence beluga. To ensure that the project will not cause significant impacts to marine mammals, the Fish Habitat Management Division (FHMD) sought, on August 5th, 2011, the cooperation of scientists from the Regional Science Branch, who have expertise on marine mammals in the St. Lawrence Estuary, to obtain their advice on the potential impacts on cetaceans, particularly the St. Lawrence beluga (species at risk).


Provide science advice concerning the five specific issues related to this project and its potential impacts on marine mammals:

  1. Are the estimates of noise level generated by the operations and the propagation distances provided by the consultant realistic? Are the estimates provided by the consultant concerning noise reduction by the implementation of mitigation measures (containment and bubble curtain) valid and realistic?
  2. Is it fair to consider that the noise impacts generated by the operations will be mitigated by the fact that the mouth of the Saguenay is a noisy environment because of the significant shipping traffic occurring there?
  3. Will the project, as proposed, prevent any physical damage to belugas? If not, what additional mitigation measures would reduce the risk of physical harm? What if operations do not occur in a confined environment?
  4. Is the project, as proposed, likely to cause disturbance for the beluga? If so, what additional mitigation measures would make the disturbance acceptable? What if operations do not occur in a confined environment?
  5. In the event the project causes disturbance to the beluga despite the implementation of additional mitigation measures, is the anticipated disturbance likely to jeopardize the species’ recovery?

Expected Publications

Science special response


DFO Regional Science Branch


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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