Beluga Protection Measures at Sainte-Marguerite Bay
From June 21st to September 21st, vessels must not enter the red area closure which follows a line between Cape Nord-Ouest and Cape Sainte-Marguerite. Special authorizations are granted only for kayaks, canoes and recreational fishermen who must travel without stopping along a corridor within 10 metres of the shore in shallow areas in the inner bay. The map below shows behaviours to adopt in order to offer a quiet place for belugas.
This area closure at Sainte-Marguerite Bay applies under the Marine Activities in Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations (SOR / 2002-76). (See: Beluga protection measures at Baie Sainte-Marguerite in news release).
At all times in the Marine Park, all watercraft must comply with the Marine Activities in Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations. These regulations protect marine mammals and allow for special measures to minimize disturbances for species at risk, such as the St. Lawrence Beluga. The following behaviours must be adopted in the Marine Park:
- All watercraft must respect a distance of at least 400 metres from whale species at risk, including belugas.
- Motorized boats must travel between 5 and 10 knots while staying the course until there are at least 926 metres (a half nautical mile) between their boat and belugas.
It is therefore strongly recommended at all times to navigate the indicated transit zone in front of the bay, between 5 and 10 knots without stopping. The purpose of this transit area is to favour respect of the Marine Activities in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations since beluga whales are often present in the Sainte-Marguerite Bay sector.
Science at the service of conservation
The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park and its surrounding area are at the heart of critical summertime habitat of the endangered St. Lawrence Beluga. The population of belugas has about three times fewer calves being born than 20 years ago and newborn and female mortalities are on the rise. The portion of the Saguenay situated between the mouth of the Fjord and Sainte-Marguerite Bay is one of the areas most used by females and their young during summer.
Since 2003, researchers from Parks Canada and the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq) have been observing beluga whales at Sainte-Marguerite Bay. The knowledge acquired over the years has made it possible to identify the areas where beluga whales are most often present (see map below). The analysis of the data also shows that this portion of the critical habitat of the St. Lawrence Beluga is intensively frequented by females and their young during summer. The protection of places critical for the feeding, birth and rearing of young is essential for the recovery of this population. (See: Density of beluga observations at Sainte-Marguerite Bay on news release).
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