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Maurice Lamontagne Institute Marks 25 Years
Achievements Towards Safe and Accessible Waterways
A hydrographer aboard a zodiac. A hydrographer conducts a bathymetric survey of the Lower North Shore aboard a zodiac.

DFO R. Côté

For the past 25 years, several events have marked the history of this major Fisheries and Oceans Canada Francophone research centre. The Maurice Lamontagne Institute teams have succeeded in combining their skills to rise to numerous challenges. They have also developed enviable expertise, particularly in terms of navigation and sustainable fisheries. A series of initiatives in both of these areas has significantly improved the accuracy of information critical to decision making.

The following are some prime examples of the results achieved:

Better understanding of ocean circulation to predict trajectories

The establishment of SINECO, a network of real-time water level monitoring stations from Montreal to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the development of hydrodynamic knowledge have made it possible to develop ocean circulation models. Among other things, these models help support the Canadian Coast Guard in forecasting the drift of castaways or oil spills.

The production of the Atlas of Tidal Currents in the Estuary is another great achievement by the region's scientific teams. This navigation tool provides an overview, hour to hour, of the strength and direction of tidal currents in the St. Lawrence Estuary, from Cap de Bon-Désir to Trois-Rivières. Recreational boaters who navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of the St. Lawrence, especially at the mouth of the Saguenay, find the Atlas particularly useful.

Water levels at your fingertips!

Another technological breakthrough has proven beneficial for marine transportation: the elaboration of the SPINE system, a service of interpolation of forecasted water levels developed by the Canadian Hydrographic Service. The system, which integrates upstream flows from Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, flows from lateral tributaries and forecasts of water levels caused by tides and winds, provides accurate water level data in real time through the ship channel between Montreal and Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, downstream from the Québec City. It also provides forecasts for up to 30 days, allowing mariners and shipowners who navigate the St. Lawrence River to validate water levels and use this information to optimize cargo loading based on the under-keel clearance of their ship at a given time and location.

21st Century explorers

Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrographers at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute were the first to use multibeam echosounders to probe the seabed, locate shoals and update nautical charts. The resulting images provide a detailed representation of the seabed. This technology is used not only to improve the accuracy of nautical charts, but also to map the habitat of various species of fish and shellfish. In recent years, it has helped to acquire data on crab, lobster and Atlantic's surfclam habitats, as well as map the American Bank area of interest in the Gaspé Peninsula. The technology, which defines the morphology of the seabed with more precision, has been gradually introduced into the sounding operations of the St. Lawrence channel. Its introduction has already improved the information used for decision making, for example, for maintenance activities in the ship channel.

The development of digital charts has marked the seagoing world just as the development of radar did. The team of hydrographers has contributed significantly to developing electronic navigation in collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard, pilot corporations, shipowners, ports on the St. Lawrence and manufacturers. The team has been instrumental in the evolution of standards to make electronic navigation more dynamic and efficient, while ensuring marine safety.

Over the past 25 years, several major discoveries about living resources and the aquatic environment have marked the work of the teams at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli. Stay tuned throughout the year as we present them to you!

Andrée Bolduc
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