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The Quebec Region Bulletin
Volume 11– Number 5 – October - November 2008

Toxic Algae Bloom in the St. Lawrence Estuary: Experts' Findings

Experts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other organizations who joined forces to monitor the “red tide” observed in the St. Lawrence Estuary in August 2008 have concluded that the unusually large toxic algae bloom caused most of the fish, bird and marine mammal mortalities reported in the same period.

The red tide was caused by Alexandrium tamarense, a microscopic algae that occurs naturally in the Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Heavy rainfall at the end of July likely caused the extensive bloom, which began at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord and then drifted with the current to the south shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary up to the Sainte-Anne-des-Monts area. The red tide was probably broken up by the strong winds that blew over the north shore of the Gaspé Peninsula in the week of August 18.

During the bloom period, an unusual number of animal mortalities was recorded.

The findings of analyses on the carcasses washed up on shore support the theory that the marine food chain was poisoned by the algae responsible for the red tide.

Since the toxin can cause transitory neurological symptoms and, in extreme cases, death, Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed all the shellfish harvesting areas in the St. Lawrence Estuary because of the risk to human health. Some harvesting areas on the North Shore have since reopened based on the recommendation of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

As a precaution, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency advise against eating the livers and viscera of fish and molluscs caught in the area where the red tide occurred. This recommendation is valid for a few weeks, which is the time required by the organisms to cleanse them-selves naturally of their toxins. The agencies also recommend not eating the viscera of any waterfowl caught in the St. Lawrence Estuary this fall. However, eating waterfowl flesh is not a cause of poisoning in humans and is therefore considered safe, as the toxins tend to accumulate in the digestive system (liver and hepatopancreas) of contaminated organisms, not in the flesh.

A significant collaborative effort was made during these events by the members of the Réseau québécois d’urgences pour les mammifères marins, namely Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in St. Hyacinthe, the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals and the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology. They were joined by Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the National Research Council’s Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax .


Picture - Toxic algae Alexandrium tamarense
Toxic algae Alexandrium tamarense
Enlargement: 4000x - Gregory Doucet



Gulf of St. Lawrence Northern Shrimp Fishery Certified Sustainable by MSC

The northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis—also referred to as northern prawn) captured by certified vessels is now eligible to display the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue eco-label.

The holders of this new certificate are seven shrimp processors, among which five are members of the Quebec Fish Processors Association (QFPA). 

Together, these companies sponsored the full assessment for MSC certification for this fishery.  The certified portion of the fishery captured approximately 26,832 metric tonnes of northern shrimp in the 2007 season.

The fishery has put numerous measures in place to ensure a minimal environmental impact.  For example, Otter trawls fitted with Nordmore separator grates ensure reduced bycatch as fish pass through the grate and escape from the trawl.  The captain of each vessel keeps a logbook recording the location and number of hours fished and an estimate of quantities caught. Since the early 1990s, at-sea observers have been in operation, in addition to all shrimp landings being monitored at dockside. 

This certification is the culmination of a three-year joint effort of the primary partners in the fishery, including harvesters, processors, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and provincial partners. Certification enables customers to identify shrimp that are harvested in a sustainable manner. Northern shrimp products bearing the MSC blue eco-label can be traced back through the supply chain to the MSC-certified fishery.

The full certification report for this fishery is available on the MSC website:



Appointment of the Assistant Commissioner, Quebec Region
Picture - Marc Demonceaux

Effective September 15, Marc Demon-ceaux has accepted the position of Assistant Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Quebec Region. He was the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Regional Director General (RDG) since March 2006. Until a new Quebec Region RDG is appointed, Richard Nadeau will be acting Regional Director General for the Quebec Region.



Convictions for Fisheries Act Violations

By Martin Bourget

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Quebec Region, has released the names of fishermen who have received fines for violations of the Fisheries Act. DFO continues to strictly enforce its zero tolerance policy on violations of the Fisheries Act. The Department has a mandate to protect and conserve fishery resources and is ever vigilant in its efforts to prevent poaching of marine resources. Fisheries and Oceans Canada encourages the public to report poaching incidents by calling 1-800-463-9057 . All calls are confidential.




Sentencing date and fine


Yvon Chevarie

Denis Cormier

Lucien Cyr


Possession of a berried female lobster.

August 6, 2008

$1,000 (Yvon Chevarie)

$1,500 (Denis Cormier)

$1,000 (Lucien Cyr)

Jean-Paul Décoste

Guy Laflamme


Landing snow crab without weighing it and possession of a female snow crab.

August 6, 2008


Jean-Paul Décoste

Philippe Richard


Possession of lobster under the legal size.

August 6, 2008


Jean-Paul Décoste

Cliffort Belvin


Possession of lobster under the legal size and possession of a berried female.

August 27, 2008

1st count: $500

2nd count: $500.00

Michel Dionne

Gaston Monger


Non-compliance with 2006 cod licence conditions by exceeding daily quota by 1,660 lb.

August 27, 2008

$250 + $311.40 for the value of cod harvested in excess of the quota.

Michel Dionne

Marc Monger

Rosaire Monger


Non-compliance with 2006 cod licence conditions by exceeding daily quota by 3,156 lb.

August 27, 2008

$250 + $591.75 each for the value of cod harvested in excess of the quota.

Michel Dionne



Oceanographic Sampling: 400th Visit to the Rimouski Station

By Claudie Dallaire

Last summer, Pierre Joly, a research assistant in biological oceanography at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, participated in the 400th oceanographic sampling visit to the Rimouski station. Since 1992, weekly sampling has been done between April and November at this station located in the middle of the estuary between Rimouski and Forestville . On these weekly visits, water samples are taken at depths of up to 320 metres, water column profiles of salinity and temperature are collected, and plankton and other samples are taken. The sampling surveys are carried out aboard the Béluga, a small (6.62 metre) multi-purpose vessel.

Since the St. Lawrence is a fragile ecosystem that is under pressure from many human activities, Maurice Lamontagne Institute researchers monitor the health of the estuary by various means including these sampling surveys. The Rimouski station, as part of a network of monitoring stations in the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence , is used to gather data to track both biological (planktonic plants and animals forming the base of the food chain) and physico-chemical changes in the St. Lawrence ecosystem. The station is also used to monitor and detect toxic algae (red tides) and invasive species.

The long-term data that are collected are invaluable for many research projects, including programs related to climate change (acidification and hypoxia) and research into the processes controlling primary and secondary production. Data from the Rimouski station have been used in a variety of specialized publications as well as in many oceanographic monitoring programs in Canada and abroad.

Picture - Claire Bertolone, intern at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, collecting samples of live zooplancton
Claire Bertolone, intern at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, collects samples of live zooplancton (copepods and other small marine animals) at theRimouski buoy. These samples will be used for an experiment on egg production in the Institute's tank room.



Secrets of the St. Lawrence at the Musée de la civilisation

From October 27 to November 2, 2008 , the partners of the St. Lawrence Plan, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, present Secrets of the St. Lawrence, an event to learn about and discover the St. Lawrence River .

This week-long event, organized in cooperation with the Musée de la civilisation du Québec to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Canada-Quebec Agreement on the St. Lawrence, will offer the latest available knowledge regarding the state of the St. Lawrence.

Over these first 20 years, two governments, a dozen different ministries, numerous partners in the private sector, and thousands of citizens have committed themselves, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, to restoring the mighty river to its former health and giving the people of Canada... a river with a future.

To close the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Plan, a forum on community involvement, organized in cooperation with Stratégies Saint-Laurent, will be held in Trois-Rivières in early December.

The activity schedule is available on the St. Lawrence Plan Web Site:



New Science Advisory reports on the Internet

The following science advisory reports are now available on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat’s Internet site, in the “Publications” section, 2008 series:

• Recovery Potential Assessment of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River watersheds (Designatable Unit 8) Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) population. (2008/042)

• Assessment of the Estuary and Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (Areas 13 to 17 and 12A, 12B and 12C) Snow Crab Stocks in 2007 (2008/043)



A Career at the MCTS: a Definite Possibility!

By Diane Caron

Are you interested in being part of the Canadian Coast Guard? Then a career working closely with the marine world may be for you!

Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) provide initial response to ships in distress and emergency situations,  as well as marine weather and navigation information through the use of marine radio and equipment. Monitoring of distress and calling frequencies is a critical duty of the job. MCTS also provide for the safe and efficient movement of traffic and protection of the marine environment through the regulation of vessel traffic. Working with marine radars and information systems within a Vessel Traffic Services Zone to regulate the movement of traffic is another of our vital duties.

We are looking for bilingual, motivated, hardworking individuals willing to work in a stimulating and fast-paced environment.

It’s a 24/7 world and we provide service to the marine environment 365 days of the year. With the exception of the Arctic , shipping never stops and neither do we. Consequently, you must be willing to accept shift work and work weekends and holidays.

Individuals interested in a career with MCST may consult the Public Service Commission of Canada website: A recruitment notice will be published shortly (Marine Communications and Traffic Services Officer trainee).

For further information regarding the MCTS Officer trainee program, please send inquiries to: 

Picture - Marine Communications and Traffic Services Officer
Marine Communications and Traffic Services Officers play a crucial role in ensuring safe navigation and protecting the environment.



The Marine Communications and Traffic Services Officers training program involves three phases:

Phase I: MCTS Ab-Initio Orien-tation/Introduction is completed at one of the regional MCTS Centres across the country. It involves two cycles of shift work (approximately two weeks) and you may be required to travel.


Phase II: The MCTS Ab-Initio 25 week training course takes place at the Canadian Coast Guard College located in Sydney , Nova Scotia . The course consists of theory, practical applications and simulations. Here you will learn the basics and upon graduation receive an internationally recognized certificate.


Phase III: On-the-Job training (OJT) takes place at a regionally appointed MCTS centre. Working with an On-the-Job-Instructor, you will learn local geography, local and regional procedures while applying the national elements of Phase II training. The OJT varies according to MCTS centre and can last from 3–7 months.


Travel is necessary to complete the three Phases of training. Travel to the regional MCTS centre for Phases I and II may be required depending on residency at time of hiring. To complete Phase II, travel is required to attend the Canadian Coast Guard College located in Sydney , Nova Scotia . Travel expenses incurred during the three phases of training shall be covered.


During Phases I and II, you are paid an Ab-Initio allowance of $350 per week less appropriate deductions. Also, $90 per week is deducted for meals and accommodations during Phase II.


For the On-the-Job Phase III training, you are appointed to the RO-01 group and level at a salary of $35,582 per annum (under review).


After successful completion of the Centre Designated Checkout of Phase III, you are appointed to the RO-03 MCTS Officer group and level with a salary beginning at $45 320 and up to $59 052 per annum (under review).



10 Years of Science for the Saguenay - St. Lawrence Marine Park

By Sylvi Racine

On October 2 and 3, 2008, at a science symposium marking the 10th anniversary of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, a number of Maurice Lamontagne Institute researchers reviewed the advances in knowledge related to the ecosystems and biodiversity of the St. Lawrence estuary and the Saguenay Fjord. Here are their main conclusions.

Food for Whales
Yvan Simard summarized the results of hydro-acoustics, oceanography and modelling research which show that the marine park has the richest krill aggregation site documented to date in the Northwest Atlantic . This can be attributed to the mechanism of upwelling (nutrient pump) and the retention and concentration of adult krill from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, combined with the two-layer estuarine circulation of the St. Lawrence. The unique oceanographic phenomena characterizing the marine park create an exceptional foraging site that has been used by whales for centuries.

Noise and Beluga Whales
By identifying sectors highly frequented by beluga whales and characterizing the acoustic environment of six of these sectors, Véronique Lesage, a researcher in marine mammal ecology, showed that the mouth of the Saguenay River is the noisiest place with the heaviest vehicle traffic and the kind of ships most likely to be heard by belugas. Cacouna and Ile Rouge are the sectors with the lowest noise levels perceptible to these whales.

Beluga Whale Contamination
Michel Lebeuf, a researcher in environmental contaminants, provided an overview of one of the factors likely contributing to the precarious situation of the St. Lawrence beluga population: exposure to toxic chemicals. He emphasized that monitoring of the loads of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in belugas is an invaluable tool for assessing temporal trends in the levels of these compounds and that the beluga should be considered a sentinel species of emerging POPs, in its habitat. He demonstrated that the total load of regulated POPs in the beluga population is either decreasing or stable, but the levels of certain emerging brominated compounds are increasing.

Effects of Contaminants on Fish
Catherine Couillard, an exotoxicology researcher, summarized the findings of sentinel species-based research on the biological effects of contaminants. Studies on the American eel have shown that migrating fish act as vectors by transporting contaminants from bodies of fresh water to the estuary. Furthermore, studies on Atlantic tomcod have revealed higher levels of exposure to genotoxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the estuary than in the Gulf of St. Lawrence . Research has also shown that when food is unavailable, higher levels of POPs accumulate in the fat deposits of fish, which increases the risk of toxic effects. In American plaice, exposure to contaminated sediments in Baie-des-Anglais was found to be linked to disruption of the immune system and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Genetic Analysis of Fish and Crustaceans
Jean-Marie Sévigny, a population genetics re-searcher, reported the results of analyses of genetic markers in a number of groundfish species and crustacean species found in the
Saguenay and the St. Lawrence: cod, Greenland halibut, redfish, snow crab and northern shrimp. This research demonstrated that the organisms in the Saguenay and those in the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence belong to the same population but spend most of their life cycle in two different environments. Considering the low level of larval survival in the Saguenay Fjord, the findings suggest that the populations of groundfish species in the Saguenay constitute sink populations, with recruitment being dependent on the influx of juveniles from the St. Lawrence. Once these fish reach the Saguenay , they spend most of their life there.



Gaspé Peninsula: Fisheries Officers for a Day

By Martin Bourget

Last summer, four youths from the Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé and Saint-Siméon elementary schools had a very special experience: they had the opportunity to be fisheries officers for a day! The students accompanied Grande-Rivière fisheries officers on their at-sea and land patrols. They inspected catches and verified the log books and licence conditions of fishermen.

This rewarding experience was made possible thanks to the Conservation and Protection Program, which involves meeting with Grade 6 students during the school year to raise their awareness on the importance of protecting fishery resources and fish habitat as well as of the work of fisheries officers. A draw was held among all the students in attendance to choose the few lucky fisheries officers for a day.

Picture - Gaspé Peninsula: Fisheries Officers for a Day - Picture 2
On the left, fisheries officer Pierre Gagnon with Alexandre Bujold-Mongrain, and on the right, fisheries officer Mario Moreau with Sarah-Ève Poirier. (Saint-Siméon school)
Picture - Gaspé Peninsula: Fisheries Officers for a Day - Picture 1
On the left, fisheries officer Allen Langlais with Pierre-Olivier Lemoignan, and on the right, fisheries officer Pierre Gagnon with Jonathan Desbois (Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé school).



October - November 2008
Volume 11
Number 5

Published by:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Quebec Region
Communications Branch
104, Dalhousie St.
Quebec (Québec)  G1K 7Y7
Telephone: (418) 648-7747

Caroline Hilt

Viviane Haeberlé

Visual Coordinator:
Denis Chamard