Anticosti inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List
The island is recognized worldwide for its exceptional fossil assemblage representing the first global mass extinction of animal life on Earth.
September 19, 2023 Gatineau, Quebec Parks Canada
Today, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee inscribed Anticosti, an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, on the World Heritage List during its 45th annual session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This designation is made possible thanks to the lengthy and dedicated work of the nomination team, including the Government of Quebec, the MRC de Minganie and the Municipality of L'Île-d'Anticosti.
The nomination of Anticosti, which is also known as Notiskuan ("where bears are hunted") by the Innu, and Natogostec ("land of before") by the Mi'kmaq, is fully supported by the Innu communities of Ekuanitshit and Nutashkuan who have been heavily involved in the nomination of the site in recent years.
With a total area of more than 9,200 square kilometres and a coastline that stretches over 550 kilometres, Anticosti represents one of the largest stratigraphic successions in thickness and the most complete fossil record of marine life of the period that spans more than 10 million years of Earth's history between 447 and 437 million years ago.
This interval in the history of Earth was not yet represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The island's exceptional paleontology continues to attract eminent Canadian, Quebec and international researchers who wish to study abundant, diverse, and well-preserved fossils. There are currently more than 1,440 known fossil species on Anticosti Island whose assemblages demonstrate changes in global climate and sea level that, at the end of the Ordovician period, caused the extinction of almost all ocean life on the planet.
The inscription of Anticosti as a World Heritage site includes all the fossil layers exposed along the coastline and the Vauréal and Jupiter rivers. The site is protected from any development and industrial activity because it is entirely located within a network of strictly protected areas consisting of a proposed biodiversity reserve, a Quebec national park, and two ecological reserves.
With this inscription, Anticosti joins the growing list of World Heritage sites in Canada, which includes impressive places such as the recently inscribed Tr'ondëk-Klondike, Nahanni National Park, Wood Buffalo National Park, Gros Morne National Park, the Historic District of Old Québec, and the Rideau Canal National Historic Site.
World Heritage sites are unique places in the world that are considered to have Outstanding Universal Value. As such, they are part of the common heritage that unites all of humanity.
“Anticosti Island, with its impressive assemblage of fossils, tells the story of what happened on our planet between 447 and 437 million years ago. It helps us better understand how climate change and rising sea levels at the time contributed to a decisive moment in history – the world's first mass extinction of life on Earth. Thank you and congratulations to all who participated in the inscription of Anticosti on the World Heritage List! I know how much time and work went into this inscription; I was even actively involved in the Anticosti campaign before entering politics. I also had the pleasure of visiting the island and admiring its wonders.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“Anticosti is a true jewel of Quebec, Canada, and the world. This extraordinary island reveals secrets about our past and the impact climate change had on Earth millions of years ago. Its inscription on the World Heritage List is a historic moment of which we should all be proud! Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the inscription of Canada's 22nd World Heritage site!”
The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine
“Today is a historic day. Anticosti is an emblematic island that stands out worldwide for the abundance, diversity and conservation status of the fossils present on its territory. It is also a unique natural environment where many species coexist that we had to protect. This UNESCO World Heritage recognition is the culmination of several years of work, which our government accelerated by officially listing Anticosti on our registry of protected areas in 2020. After reaching the target of 17% of protected areas in 2020, Quebec is continuing its leadership in biodiversity.”
Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks and Minister responsible for the Laurentides region, Government of Quebec
“An inscription on the World Heritage List is synonymous with recognition of the outstanding universal value of a site and provides far-reaching international visibility. Anticosti thus becomes the third Quebec site to be awarded this distinction by UNESCO, along with the Historic District of Old Québec and Miguasha National Park in the Gaspé Peninsula. This prestigious designation is the result of seven years of work and consultation with all partners. I would like to thank everyone for their sustained commitment.”
Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie and Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Government of Quebec
“We are proud to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. This exceptional recognition is the beginning of a new era and an opportunity to invest sustainably in projects for the citizens of Anticosti and for the future of the community. Now is the time to take action to honourably welcome visitors from all over the world.”
Mayor of the Municipality of L'Île-d'Anticosti
“This decision confirms that Anticosti Island is a unique place in the world, but above all, that it is essential to protect it and showcase its exceptional jewels. Today marks the beginning of a great adventure for the people of Anticosti. This recognition will have positive impacts for the entire Minganie region and will help promote Quebec internationally.”
Prefect of the MRC de Minganie
“As part of our Nitassinan, Anticosti Island is of great importance to our spiritual values, our identity, and our culture. The joining forces of our communities, municipal, regional, governmental, and scientific, has allowed this recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We wish to maintain this collaboration for the continuation of the adventure.”
Innu Chief of Ekuanitshit
“We are delighted with Anticosti's recognition, which will promote Innu culture here and abroad. We wish to continue the collaboration with local, regional, and national players to allow the enhancement of this exceptional site.”
Chief of the community of Nutashkuan
“This decision by UNESCO will allow the sustainability of world-class scientific work given the abundance, diversity, and exceptional state of conservation of fossils on the island. This reiterates that Anticosti Island is the best natural laboratory on the planet to study the fossils and sedimentary layers of the first mass extinction of life on Earth.”
Scientific Director of the Steering Committee for the nomination of Anticosti to the World Heritage List for UNESCO and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Ottawa.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage in the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites are important to all the peoples of the world, regardless of the territory in which they are located.
Parks Canada, as the State Party's representative to the World Heritage Convention, leads its implementation in Canada and coordinates the contributions and activities of provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous partners. Parks Canada also has full or shared responsibilities for the management of 13 of the 22 World Heritage sites in Canada. Nine others are managed by other jurisdictions, such as municipal, provincial, or Indigenous authorities.
- UNESCO World Heritage List
- World Heritage sites in Canada
- Parks Canada
- Ministère de l'Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs
- Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie (in French only)
- Municipality of L'Île-d'Anticosti (in French only)
- MRC de Minganie (in French only)
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
Ministère de l'Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs
Communications and Public Affairs Branch
Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie
Municipality of L'Île-d'Anticosti
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