Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area
Îles de l'Estuaire National Wildlife Area is closed for 2021 due to boat services being unavailable.
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Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area (NWA) is made up of ten rocky islands or portions of islands. These islands protecting seabird colony are scattered over some 120 kilometers (km) between Kamouraska and Rimouski in the heart of the St. Lawrence Estuary.
Established in 1986, this 404-hectare (ha) NWA protects important nesting sites for colonial seabirds, especially the common eider. Its rocky islands are covered by balsam fir, white birch stands, white spruce stands and herbaceous vegetation.
The rocky islands are surrounded by large mudflats or rocky flats occupied by communities of mixed algae border. A hundred or more species of birds visit the NWA. A large proportion of which also nest there. The islands are also home to nearly a dozen mammal species. Species at risk such as the peregrine falcon, red knot and barrow's goldeneye are frequenting the wildlife area and its surroundings.
The wildlife area also accommodates large colonies of seabirds that are highly sensitive to human disturbance, such as:
- common eider
- black guillemot
- great blue heron
- black-crowned night-heron
- black-legged kittiwake
- double-crested cormorant
- great black-backed gull
- herring gull
The colony of common eiders on Île Bicquette totals more than 7,000 pairs, making it one of the largest colonies for that species in North America. Some of the NWA islands are also frequented by the largest colonies of razorbills and black guillemots in the St. Lawrence Estuary. During migration periods, many waterfowl species descend upon the islands, bordering flats and adjacent waters and sometimes can be observed in the hundreds or thousands, including:
- snow goose
- black scoter
- surf scoter
- black duck
The most common mammals in the wildlife area are:
- red fox
- snowshoe hare
- grey seal
- harbour seal
Estuary Islands NWA is exposed to a range of threats and presents management challenges, including:
- wildlife diseases
- disturbance of colonial birds due to predators and human activities
- presence of invasive exotic plant species
- the risk of accidental oil spills in the St. Lawrence
More information on Estuary Islands NWA is provided in the summary table below.
Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all other activities are prohibited in all NWAs. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section.
You can also consult the Estuary Islands NWA management plan.
Due to the fragile state of wildlife species and island environments, public access to Estuary Islands is prohibited except for one of the islands, Le Pot du Phare. The island is accessible from mid-July to mid-October, following the seabird-nesting season. Duvetnor, an Environment and Climate Change Canada authorized organization offers a transportation service for visitors to access the Pot du Phare. Any authorized activities are listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations; signage is also posted at access points.
Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Estuary Islands NWA, include non-commercial non-motorized boating, from sunset to sunrise, in addition to during the period referred to in subsection 3.1(3)
Permits may be issued for research activities in keeping with the priorities set out in the management plan for the wildlife area or for other conservation activities such as surveys, or the enhancement or restoration of habitats.
Priority will be given to collaborative activities with local agencies and organizations to promote the protection and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats in the NWA. For example, initiatives could be launched or continued with the following entities:
- universities or research centers to address gaps in scientific knowledge
- the province to implement recovery measures for species at risk (particularly those falling under provincial jurisdiction)
- non-governmental organizations or municipal authorities to build public awareness of the wildlife area's objectives
More information on access and permitting for Estuary Islands NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.
Notice from Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada would like to inform the public that the Îles de l'Estuaire NWA--a string of a dozen islands located in the middle of the St. Lawrence Estuary in the municipalities of Rimouski, Saint-André and Kamouraska--is a protected area. Since its creation in 1986, the NWA has been protecting wildlife and the nesting sites of migratory birds in the area, particularly those of seabird colonies.
To protect the area, the Department is informing visitors to areas around NWA islands of their obligation to follow certain rules, as dictated by the Canada Wildlife Act and its corresponding regulations. Anyone who neglects to follow these rules or obey the laws in effect may be subject to fines and prosecution.
Nature viewing and hiking are authorized in designated areas on Le Pot du Phare island.
Without a permit issued by the Minister, it is strictly prohibited for anyone in the NWA to (see section 3.(1) of the Wildlife Area Regulations):
- hunt or fish;
- destroy or remove a plant;
- allow any domestic animal to run at large;
- swim, picnic, camp or carry on any other recreational activity or light a fire;
- operate any mode of transportation;
- dump or deposit any trash.
For complete information on all applicable regulations, please consult the Canada Wildlife Act, Wildlife Area Regulations, 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act, and Species at Risk Act at Environment and Climate Change Canada website.
To file a complaint or report illegal activities, please contact Environment and Climate Change Canada by phone at 1-800-668-6767 or by email at Enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca.
This notice shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any Aboriginal, treaty or other rights of Aboriginal peoples.
Plan your visit
The Société Duvetnor Ltée offers public activities and services at Estuary Islands NWA. These include guided hiking tours and outreach activities to build awareness of wildlife species habitat conservation. Please contact the Société Duvetnor for additional information.
Activities and services
- Interpretation activities
- Guided tours
- Special programs: Cruises and excursions hosted by the Société Duvetnor
- Hiking trails: On Le Pot du Phare, with a guide only
Note: Public access to other islands of the NWA is prohibited.
Access to islands is prohibited without a permit except for Le Pot du Phare when accompanied by a guide.
Location of wildlife area (access)
More information on services offered to public can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.
Map of the area
Map showing the section of the St. Lawrence River situated between Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska and La Malbaie. The boundaries of Estuary Isalnds National Wildlife Area (NWA) are indicated. The NWA covers portions of several islands, including Îles de Kamouraska, Long Pèlerin, Île aux Fraises, Île du Pot du Phare, Île Blanche et Île Bicquette. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. An inset situates the NWA in Canada.
This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries.
|Protected area designation||NWA|
|Latitude/Longitude||47°35' North / 68°53' West|
|Size||404 ha (83.5 ha of land and 320.5 ha of flats)|
|Reason for creation of protected area||Protection of nesting sites of importance to migratory birds, particularly colonial seabirds and especially the common eider|
|Date created (Gazetted)||1986 – Legal description.|
|International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management category||Strict Nature Reserve – (Ia): protected area set aside to protect biodiversity and possibly geological or geomorphological features|
|Additional designations||Part of 5 Important Bird Areas (IBA):|
|Keystone or flagship species||common eider and razorbill|
|Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)||Three species at risk:|
|Main habitat type||
|Faunistic and floristic importance||The NWA shelters one of the largest colonies of common eiders in North America. It accommodates the largest colonies of razorbills and black guillemots in the St. Lawrence Estuary, notably on Le Pot du Phare and Le Long Pèlerin islands. The colony of black-legged Kittiwakes on Le Long Pèlerin is the westernmost in Quebec|
|Invasive species||The reed canary grass, the wild raddish and the smooth bedstraw. The double-crested cormorant could be considered a nuisance species if it becomes over abundant.|
|Additional links||Birds: great blue heron and gulls
Mammals: muskrat, snowshoe hare and grey seal
|Main threats and management challenges||Wildlife diseases, disturbance of colonial birds due to predators and human activities andinvasion by exotic plant species and risk of accidental oil spills in the St.Lawrence|
|Management Agency||Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)|
|Public access and usage||Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Estuary Islands NWA, include:
Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page, any notice posted at the NWA site and the law, the law prevails, as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.
Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
801-1550 D’Estimauville Avenue
Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
P.O. Box 305
200 Hayward Street
Phone number: 418-867-1660
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