The creation of a marine protected area around the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, covering nearly 5 000 km2, has been under study for over 15 years. Notably, it would let the protection of the St. Lawrence beluga’s habitats be completed. The species is designated as “endangered.”
Why protect this place?
The St. Lawrence Estuary is a major feeding grounding for many marine mammals, in particular, blue whales and fin whales. It is also a strategic habitat for the beluga and the harbour seal, which reside there year-round.
Of the dozen or so marine mammal species that frequent the area, nearly half are species at risk, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and are protected or potentially protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Belugas and other marine species in the St. Lawrence Estuary are unfortunately experiencing a decline that is likely to accelerate in the coming years if nothing is done to protect their habitats.
Intensive-use and multipurpose zones: transportation of goods, whale watching, nautical activities, recreational tourism, etc.
Several species at risk, such as the beluga and the blue whale
Six land reserves protect 3.2% of the St. Lawrence from mining, oil and gas activities, hydraulic power exploitation and commercial or industrial energy production.
CPAWS Quebec’s work
The estuary’s exceptional characteristics in terms of biodiversity explain why CPAWS Quebec has been interested in this site for many years.
Concerned by the oil-industry threats affecting this site, especially the construction of an oil terminal in Cacouna, in the heart of the proposed marine protected area and a site described as a “beluga whale nursery,” CPAWS Quebec was very active over months of popular mobilizing. The organization has also been at the centre of campaigns aimed at enacting measures under the Species at Risk Act to protect the beluga's critical habitat.
In addition, in recent years CPAWS Quebec has also organized discussion workshops on marine protected areas in communities and First Nations near the estuary project, as well as running public awareness events emphasizing the importance of protecting this unique environment.
At the same time, CPAWS Quebec is encouraging the idea of implementing of a quota system for marine traffic in the St. Lawrence. This would help reduce shipping-associated risks, such as shoreline erosion due to wave action, collisions with marine mammals, noise pollution affecting the animals, the arrival of invasive species, etc.
Protect the St. Lawrence
The St. Lawrence is of great ecological, socio-economic and cultural importance and must be further protected.