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Quebec Bulletin
February - March 2015/Volume 18/Number 1

American Bank under Scrutiny!

In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) selected the American Bank as an Area of Interest for establishing a marine protected area. This approach has three objectives: preserve and protect sea floor habitats providing food and shelter for juvenile fish; conserve and protect pelagic habitats (water column) and forage species (prey); protect endangered species including whales and wolffish.

To define appropriate habitat conservation and protection measures, available habitats and species on the site must be well known and their positions accurately defined.

Thus, in July 2014, a DFO scientific team boarded CCGS Leim to survey the American Bank. The purpose of the mission, initiated in 2012, was to complete the characterization of the bottom and species associated with the site, using underwater imaging equipment towed along the bottom. A sled equipped with a camera and a high-definition video camera was used. The imagery obtained, coupled with multibeam sonar survey data, is the ideal tool for mapping and characterizing the seabed in such a vast area.

2012 three-dimensional representation of the ridge (middle section) of the 
American Bank and sampling stations using benthic imaging
2012 three-dimensional representation of the ridge (middle section) of the
American Bank and sampling stations using benthic imaging

During the same season, the scientific team started characterizing suitable Atlantic Wolfish habitats. The team went scuba diving with a remote-controlled submarine equipped with a video camera, known as an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), to inspect escarpments along the sharp ridge of the American Bank. The information collected during these missions is essential for correctly guiding regulations for the future marine protected area. It also will provide baseline conditions for assessing the success of the monitoring plans that will need to be implemented when it is designated.

The seabed is covered with very colourful organisms.
The seabed is covered with very colourful organisms.

About the American Bank

The American Bank is a submarine bank prolonging the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in the Quebec portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Area of Interest is characterized by two shelves separated by a sharp ridge, which rises to a minimum depth of 12 metres at its highest point. Covering 1000 km2, the site is noted for the diversity of its habitats, seasonal or year-round occurrence of whales and many commercially important species, the presence of species at risk and a wide variety of shellfish. It is also a feeding ground for various species of fish and marine mammals, especially for declining groundfish populations, including the southern Gulf cod stock. It has traditionally been a coveted fishing area.

The site is located off the Percé coast (in the Gaspé), beyond the tip of the Forillon Peninsula.
Location of the Area of Interest

Read also:

Underwater imagery on a sled... learning more about the seabed
Infoceans – August-September 2010 (archived issue)

American Bank: progress in marine environment protection
Infoceans – October-November 2011 (archived issue)

American Bank: Stakeholder Consultations
Infoceans – August-September 2013

Yves Clermont
Ecosystems Management

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