Banc-des-Américains: a treasure for marine life in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
The Banc-des-Américains is a marine protected area that’s being explored using high-quality imagery obtained through the use of ROPOS, a remotely operated Canadian submersible.
Life is revealed in all its splendour on the American Bank, the sub-marine platform that is the extension of Forillon National Park.
The area to be protected occupies 1,000 square kilometres, more than 5 times the size of Île d’Orléans, and snugs up to Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé. Historically, this sector was prized as fishing grounds.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
The American Bank is one of a kind, a treasure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s a very productive marine environment that attracts whales and fish because their food is so abundant here.
Aquatic Sciences Biologist
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
In this area, there are some very distinct habitats, including a rocky ridge in shallow water where you can find species like red algae, sea cucumbers and starfish.
Habitats that are being explored using high quality imagery obtained through the use of ROPOS, a remotely operated Canadian submersible. It’s an environment that fascinates researchers and biologists.
Until recently, we’d only had video and images of the American Bank’s ridge and plains, but for the first time, using ROPOS, we were able to collect images of the rocky cliff.
Here, there are organisms that attach themselves to the substrate, including several species of sponges, anemones, urchins and starfish.
The American Bank is also unique because ocean currents concentrate nutrients here, encouraging a wide diversity of species to live in this area.
The animals living on the seabed are connected to the surface of the ocean. They need the algae and zooplankton which, upon dying, drift slowly down and serve as food for the animals below.
There’s also another type of habitat, the plains, which are much deeper and are composed of finer sediments like sand and stones.
A great variety of species cohabit at these depths. The American Bank is home to a multitude of anemones, crustaceans, molluscs and sponges. Young redfish, capelin and several other fish species congregate here, finding shelter at these depths.
We know very little about our seabeds. We often say we know more about the surface of the moon than about our own ocean floors here on Earth. These environments are very hard to reach; you need ships with special gear to take samples there.
Here, you can find species like capelin, shrimp and certain other organisms settled on the sea floor. We sincerely hope that protecting this area will help fully preserve the biodiversity of the American Bank.
It is crucial to act to protect this valued treasure. The governments of Canada and Quebec are working together to create a marine protected area that will help conserve this unique and singular environment. These measures will serve to safeguard the seabed and maintain the American Bank’s biodiversity and, more generally, to improve the health and productivity of its ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.
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Exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
From August 23 to 30, 2017, scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Oceana Canada explored difficult to access areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Their mission enabled them to collect samples of significant deep coastal habitats and species, and to explore 4 key zones of the gulf covering depths of 20 m to 200 m: the northern and southern sections of the Laurentian Channel, the American Bank and the Cape Breton Tough.
Crediting for underwater video: Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility/ROPOS, Oceana Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
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