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Roberta Miller in the collection room Roberta Miller in
the collection room

DFO  F. Servant

The Maurice Lamontagne Institute (MLI) is home to a well-protected treasure trove that continues to grow year after year from the discoveries made by its marine scientists, and even fish harvesters. Its collection room is a genuine museum filled with marine organisms that have been patiently collected and conserved for future generations.

This collection acts as a permanent archive of specimens intended for taxonomic and biogeographic reference for the scientific community. It reflects the tremendous marine biodiversity present in the saltwater portion of the St. Lawrence, in northern Quebec (including Hudson Bay and James Bay) and even in the Canadian Arctic.  

The collection was started in the late 1980s and, at the time, contained specimens from three separate collections that were transferred to MLI:

  • 2,100 specimens harvested between 1929 and 1980 by scientists working for the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ);
  • 2,600 specimens harvested between 1947 and 1989, held by the Arctic Biological Station in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue; and
  • 884 specimens from the now-closed Centre de recherche en écologie des pêches (CREP).

Since then, the collection has continued to grow thanks to members of the MLI’s scientific staff—the most significant contributors to the collection since 1986—who have brought in more than 3,800 specimens gathered from every nook and cranny of the Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Most of the specimens have been preserved whole in alcohol (ethanol), while others, such as molluscs, crabs and starfish, have been dried and preserved intact. The collection room now has 11,633 catalogued specimens, and new ones are added regularly.  Most specimens are identified according to species or at a higher taxonomic level.

The collection’s biodiversity

Crustaceans are the most diverse group of organisms in the collection with 769 species, including various kinds of crab, shrimp, amphipods, krill and copepods. Molluscs hold second place, with a collection of 417 species, primarily bivalves, gastropods, calamary and squid. Marine worms from the annelid superfamily are also well represented with 400 catalogued specimens. Saltwater fish come next, with 355 specimens.

Caristius groenlandicus found along the Gaspé coast in 2006
Caristius groenlandicus found along the Gaspé coast in 2006

DFO  R. Miller
Gorgonocephalus arcticus near the MLI in 1988
Gorgonocephalus arcticus near the MLI in 1988


Number of specimens by phylum (superfamily)
Annelida (marine worms) 2,015
Arthropoda (crustaceans) 3,182
Brachipoda 48
Chætognatha 26
Chordata (fish) 1,804
Cnidaria (sea anemones, jellyfish) 342
Ctenophora 5
Echinodermata (starfish) 694
Echiura 2
Ectoprocta (bryozoans) 143
Hemichordata 1
Mollusca (bivalves, gastropods) 2,651
Aschelminthes (roundworms) 68
Nematomorpha 1
Phoronida 1
Platyhelminthes (flatworms) 46
Pogonophora 2
Porifera (sponges) 24
Priapula (priapulid worms) 11
Protozoa (protozoans) 21
Rhynchocoela (nemertians) 40
Sipuncula 42

The collection may be visited and specimens may even be loaned out. To make a request, contact MLI via Roberta Miller, who is in charge of conservation and management. 

Roberta Miller