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Scientific mission
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
The scientific team The scientific team


Last June, a scientific team from the Maurice Lamontagne Institute (MLI) boarded CCGS Teleost—a Canadian Coast Guard Ship used exclusively for scientific activities—to work on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After a 20-day mission during which team members travelled 3,327 nautical miles while working around the clock, the team returned to base with thousands of data and samples—enough to keep several people busy for a few months while they validate and check the data, and analyze the results. In all, 126 stations, some of which have been visited for over 65 years, were sampled to meet the following three main objectives.

Environmental conditions

First of all, oceanographic data were gathered as part of the Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP). This program describes and characterizes water masses in terms of a variety of parameters: physical parameters such as water temperature and salinity and current amplitude and direction; chemical parameters like dissolved oxygen quantity and nutrient content; and biological parameters including biomass and the composition of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which lie at the base of the food chain.

These data notably serve to calculate environmental indices that are used to monitor the seasonal, annual and multi-year variability of ocean climate conditions and the status of the St. Lawrence ecosystem.

Plankton nets
                    Plankton nets

Next, plankton samples were taken at 65 stations throughout the southern gulf to evaluate the abundance of mackerel roe. These results are used to calculate the abundance index for the breeding population. The index is periodically submitted for peer review and is used to prepare science advisory reports pertaining to mackerel. The plankton samples are also used to study larva communities present in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence at the time of the survey.

Marine mammals

Finally, acoustic data from three AURAL (Autonomous Underwater Recorder for Acoustic Listening) probes, which were recovered after they had spent the winter underwater, were also gathered. These probes record underwater sounds. They are used to assess ambient noise levels and, when vocalisations are detected, to monitor the passage of marine mammals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and near Cabot Strait.

Taking the Pulse of the St. Lawrence
Feature Articles – March 14, 2011

Alain Gagné
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