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The Grand Banks of Newfoundland: Atlas of Human Activities

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland: Atlas of Human Activities

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland: Atlas of Human Activities (PDF, 115 MB)

Oceans Division
Oceans and Habitat Management Branch
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador Region)

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2007

All rights reserved. No part of this information (publication or product) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without prior written permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2007, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0S5 or at

Cat. No.
978-0-662-45273-7 (English PDF)
978-0-662-73641-7 (French PDF)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada


Published by:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador Region
Communications Branch and
Oceans Division, Oceans and Habitat Management Branch
PO Box 5667
St. John’s, NL A1C 5X1

Printed on recycled paper


This atlas was co-edited by Jason Simms, Charlene Coates, Geoff Coughlan and Dawn Mercer. Maps were created by Charlene Coates and writing was completed by Geoff Coughlan and Charlene Coates.

Authors would like to sincerely thank the following individuals who kindly shared their knowledge or provided data on various aspects of the Atlas of Human Activities, as well as those that took part in the review process: Susan Gover, Dave Hawkins and Lewis Manual from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board; Neil Peet and Brian Stone from the Canadian Coast Guard, Newfoundland and Labrador Region; Kirk Regular from Digeos; Scott Lewis and Rick Wadman from Environment Canada; LCdr R. G. Thwaites and Lt (N) Jay Warwick from National Defence; and Louis Armstrong from Transport Canada.

Authors would also like to thank the following staff of Fisheries and Oceans Canada who shared data and advice as well as took part in the review process: Chris Annand, Heather Bishop, Tony Bowdring, Rick Boyce, Heather Breeze, Bill Brodie, Noel Cadigan, Eugene Colbourne, Keith Clarke, Brian Dempson, Glen Herbert, Sean Hinds, Tracey Horseman, Leonard Knight, Morley Knight, Dave Kulka, Roger Menard, Dave Millar, Neil Ollerhead, Mike O’Connell, Richard Palmer, Ann-Marie Russell, Sandra Savory, Murray Scotney, Andrew Smith, Gary Smith, Blair Thorne, Elaine Walker, Ben Whelan and Larry Yetman.


Commercial Shipping: Great Circle Routes

Map of Great Circle Routes

Map of Great Circle Routes

In 2002, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Maritimes Region and Environment Canada/Canadian Wildlife Service (Newfoundland and Labrador) commissioned a report by Geocentric Mapping Consulting entitled Marine Commercial Vessel Traffic Activity in Atlantic Canada (Geocentric Mapping Consulting 2002). As part of that report, mapping of the Great Circle Routes between Canada and Europe and North America and Europe was undertaken.

Geocentric Mapping Consultants (2002) noted the British Admiralty’s Great Circle Route maps (North America - Europe and Caribbean - Atlantic Region) in Ocean Passages for the World were examined for common Great Circle Route destination points and rhumblines to port destinations in Atlantic Canada. The Great Circle Route digital layers were developed from a database of endpoints (ports of call) provided in Ocean Passages for the World. The plottable coordinates were read from charts (2.50) Routes Canada - Europe, (2.63) Routes North America - Europe and (2.102).

Convergence of Great Circle Routes occurs in the study area on the Grand Bank west of Carson Canyon and south of the Grand Bank. Additional routes through the northern portion of the planning area converge southeast of Cape Race. This convergence point lies outside the proposed planning area boundary. Geocentric Mapping Consultants (2002) stated the convergence of Great Circle Routes to these (and other Atlantic Canada) points distinguished six dominant arrow paths into Atlantic Canada from seven international departure point groupings.

Geocentric Mapping Consulting. 2002. Marine Commercial Vessel Traffic Activity in Atlantic Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Dartmouth, NS) and Environment Canada

Canadian Wildlife Service - Wildlife Enforcement (St. John’s, NF)

Commercial Shipping: Traffic Density (2000)

Map depicting the Commercial Shipping: Traffic Density (2000)

Map depicting the Commercial Shipping: Traffic Density (2000)

This map depicts commercial shipping density for a representative year (2000) of inbound traffic through the study area. The primary source of commercial vessel data for Canadian waters is the Canadian Coast Guard’s Eastern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (ECAREG) system. This is a mandatory reporting system for all commercial vessels over 500 gross registered tons (GRT) transiting within Canada’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea. Vessel trip records include information on vessel size, class, cargo and departure/destination points. The ECAREG system also provides geo-referenced information (latitude/longitude) for chronological movement reports made during individual vessel trips.

This map does not show all international shipping through the study area for the year 2000 for several reasons. The map includes only inbound traffic; however, other analyses have indicated that the density pattern of departing vessels is much the same as the inbound traffic pattern. In addition, the ECAREG system does not include information on vessels transiting through Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) if they are not departing or entering the territorial sea or inland waters.

The vessel tracks depicted on the map were generated by plotting vessel movements as straight lines between reported vessel locations in the ECAREG data set. Subsequently, the number of ship tracks passing through each cell of a two-minute grid was counted. A thematic map using custom ranges of a various color scheme based on the number of ship tracks in each grid cell was created. These ranges were used to determine relative densities of the vessel tracks and routes. The resulting traffic density map corresponds to the known and expected shipping patterns in the study area, with the highest density of traffic passing to the south of the island towards the Cabot Strait. This ship traffic is associated with trans-Atlantic traffic from Europe as well as oil and gas related shipments to the transhipment facility and refinery in Placentia Bay.

Ferry Routes: South Coast And Placentia Bay

The ferry routes to note for the study area are the Marine Atlantic services from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland and Labrador; and from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador. Marine Atlantic operates the 280 nautical mile Argentia route three times per weekFootnote 3 from June to September for a total of 40 round trips (Marine Atlantic 2005). This route traverses the western portion of the planning area. The 96 nautical mile Port aux Basques route operates daily year round. One to three crossings per day are undertaken from early-September to mid-June and three to four crossings per day are undertaken in the busier summer months (mid-June to early September). The North Sydney to Port aux Basques route traverses the extreme northwest corner of the study area.

Smaller south coast ferries and the Fortune to St. Pierre ferry operate outside the study area.

Marine Atlantic. 2005. Marine Atlantic website. Accessed September 19, 2005.

Map of Ferry Routes: South Coast and Placentia Bay

Map of Ferry Routes: South Coast and Placentia Bay

Aerial Surveillance: Vessel Sightings (2002)

Map depicting the Aerial Surveillance: Vessel Sightings (2002)

Map depicting the Aerial Surveillance: Vessel Sightings (2002)

Provincial Airlines Limited (PAL) has been contracted by the Government of Canada to provide fisheries air surveillance services (PAL 2004). Surveillance operations are conducted mainly on (but not limited to) the east coast using three modified Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft. These aircraft are equipped with sophisticated and integrated surveillance and data management equipment effective both day and night (DFO 1999). The aircraft provides support to the department and acts as a deterrent to illegal activity. They also assist in the documentation of violations.

During a flight, a variety of information is recorded in relation to vessels observed. This includes position, platform type, platform name, NAFO Division, port code, port name, jurisdiction, inside or outside 200 nautical miles, bathymetry and activity (fishing, steaming, jogging etc.).

This map depicts the locations of vessels sighted by surveillance aircraft throughout a representative year (2002). Sightings include all vessel types including commercial shipping vessels, Canadian and international fishing vessels, etc. It is evident that vessel sightings were distributed on shelf and slope areas throughout the study area. Particularly high concentrations of vessels were located on the Tail of the Grand Bank as well as the slope area northwest of the Grand Bank outside the Canadian 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This is reflective of a high concentration of dedicated air surveillance patrol that tends to focus on these areas outside the Canadian 200 nautical mile EEZ where foreign fishing vessels concentrate their activity in the NAFO Regulatory Area. (pers. comm. Morley Knight, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management).

DFO. 1999. Five Year Air Surveillance Contract Awarded to Provincial Airlines Ltd. News Release January 15, 1999.

PAL. 2004. Provincial Airlines Successful in Bid for Five-Year DFO Aerial Surveillance Contract. News Release. March 16, 2004.

Knight, Morley. Director of Conservation and Protection, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador Region. St. John’s, NL.

Map depicting Canadian Coast Guard: Search and Rescue

Map depicting Canadian Coast Guard: Search and Rescue

This map depicts the number and location of search and rescue incidents within the study area from 2000 – 2004. The data is based on unpublished statistics provided by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) (pers. comm. Brian Stone, Canadian Coast Guard). CCG maintains several primary search and rescue units throughout the region that are capable of offshore response. An inshore patrol vessel operates seasonally (spring, summer and fall) out of St. Anthony with a range of 120 nautical miles to seaward and up to one week of endurance. Two 47 foot MLB lifeboats with a range of 80 nautical miles operate seasonally (spring, summer and fall) out of Port au Choix and Lark Harbour; however, these are replaced with an Icebreaker which services the West Coast during the ice navigation season (pers. comm. Neil Peet, Canadian Coast Guard). The South Coast is covered by two AURN lifeboats located in Burgeo and Burin. These stations have the capability to respond to incidents within a range of 100 nautical miles (out and back) year-round. One offshore SAR patrol vessel and two offshore Fisheries patrol vessels operate out of St. John’s and are enlisted (as needed) for search and rescue response on the East Coast. The Northeast Coast is covered seasonally (spring, summer and fall) by an offshore patrol vessel; however, during winter, due to ice conditions, this vessel is replaced with an ice-capable vessel (pers. comm. Neil Peet, Canadian Coast Guard). There were a total of 641 search and rescue incidents distributed throughout the planning area from 2000 – 2004. Areas of high concentrations of incidents are found along the slope area in the north of the study area, the northern Grand Bank and on the Southeast Shoal.

Stone, Brian. Superintendent of Maritime Search and Rescue. Canadian Coast Guard. Newfoundland and Labrador Region. St. John’s, NL.

Peet, Neil. Supervisor of Marine Search and Rescue Programs. Canadian Coast Guard. Newfoundland and Labrador Region. St. John’s, NL.

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