Proposed Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) selected the Banc-des-Américains as an Area of Interest for Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation in 2011. The future designation of this MPA is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to developing a national network of MPAs and to reaching its international target 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 entirety of the submarine American Bank and its surrounding area. Its particular rock formation, along with the nutrients brought in on 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, where it could provide important habitat for groundfish populations.
The proposed MPA aims to protect seafloor habitats and forage species, and aid in the recovery of species at risk, particularly blue whales and spotted and Northern wolffish. The governments of Canada and Quebec are working together to protect this proposed MPA. The Government of Canada has proposed the Banc-des-Américains for MPA designation under the Oceans Act. The Government of Quebec will also implement protection measures to help conserve this sensitive and unique area.
The proposed regulations for the Banc-des-Américains MPA establish two management zones that will provide different levels of protection, offering the most stringent protection to the areas that need it most. Commercial and recreational fisheries would be prohibited in Zone 1, the most sensitive area, but Indigenous fishing for food, social and ceremonial purposes would be permitted. In Zone 2, commercial trap, longline and hand-line fishing would be allowed as long as it is not for certain forage species. Together these zones ensure the conservation and protection of the area.
The proposed Banc-des-Américains MPA is the result of collaboration with Indigenous communities, the fishing industry, the shipping industry, environmental 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 for the proposed MPA.
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