In March 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) designated the Banc-des-Américains as a marine protected area (MPA) under the Oceans Act. This designation will provide protection to an additional 1,000 km2 (0.02%) of Canada’s oceans, bringing us one step closer to reaching our international targets of conserving 10% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2020.
Located off the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Banc-des-Américains is a unique habitat within the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The site includes the submarine American Bank and its surrounding area. Its particular rock formation, along with the nutrients brought in by the Gaspé current, supports an extraordinary range of habitats and marine species, including an abundance of commercially fished species such as snow crab, Northern shrimp, Atlantic halibut, Greenland halibut, Atlantic cod, American plaice, witch flounder and mackerel; as well as many forage species like capelin, herring, sand lance and krill.
The area is also home to molluscs and crustaceans like crab and lobster, and has significant potential as a feeding ground for various fish and marine mammals, providing important habitat for groundfish populations.
The MPA aims to protect seafloor habitats, forage species, the water column and aid in the recovery of species-at-risk, including blue whales and the spotted and Northern wolffish. The governments of Canada and Quebec are working together to protect this important ecosystem. This new MPA will have two protection statuses: an aquatic reserve under the Quebec legislation and a marine protected area under Canada’s Oceans Act.
The regulations for the Banc-des-Américains MPA establish two management zones that provide different levels of protection, offering the most stringent protection to the area that needs it most. Anchoring, commercial and recreational fisheries are prohibited in Zone 1, the most sensitive area, but Indigenous fishing for food, social and ceremonial purposes continues to be allowed. In Zone 2, commercial trap, longline and hand-line fishing are allowed, with the exception of fishing for certain forage species. Together these zones ensure the appropriate level of conservation and protection of the area.
Oil and gas activities, discharge of sewage and release of grey water from large vessels are prohibited throughout the entire MPA.
The Banc-des-Américains MPA is the result of collaboration with Indigenous communities, the fishing industry, the shipping industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, academia, and local stakeholders and governments at all levels. Extensive consultations with these partners and stakeholders have helped to shape the conservation objectives, determine the boundaries and develop the regulatory approach.