Île Paquet is a small island located in the Havre aux Maisons lagoon, in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Québec. Up until 1999 this island was known as Île aux Cochons. The island lies slightly east of the bridge crossing the channel between the islands of Cap aux Meules and Havre aux Maisons, and can be observed from the shore. The oval-shaped island (composed mostly of sandstone) is about 400 metres in length and is surrounded by six-metre high banks. The island's surface is mostly covered by grassy meadows, although a sandy area has been created on the south side of the island from deposits dredged from the adjacent channel. No new material has been added for about ten years. These deposits, which are only partially stabilized by vegetation, are vulnerable to erosion.
Île Paquet supports a large colony of nesting terns. Species present include Common, Arctic, and Roseate Terns, with Common Terns being considerably more abundant than the other two species. The five most recent surveys (between 1992 and 2000) resulted in an average colony size of 1,309 terns. Assuming most of these birds were Common Terns, about 1% of the estimated North American population breeds here.
Of additional interest is the regular presence of a few pairs of nesting Roseate Terns. The Magdalen Islands are the northern-most breeding area in North America for this nationally endangered species. The most recent estimates suggest between 87 and 137 nesting pairs of the Roseate Tern in Canada, and as such even the few individuals regularly recorded at the Île Paquet nesting colony represent greater than 1% of the estimated national population. In the late 1980's there were three pairs nesting on the island, and in recent years between one and two pairs have been observed.
Herring Gull numbers have been increasing on Île Paquet: only 2 nests were recorded in 1976, while 169 nests were recorded in 1990, and 596 in 1993. Although no Great Black-backed Gulls were reported in the mid-1970s, a total of 88 nests was estimated in 1990, and 130 in 1993.
Since 1987 the Roseate Tern population on Île Paquet has been monitored annually. This species has been recorded nesting at only two other locations in the Magdalen islands: the islets off Pointe-aux-Loups, and an artificial islet off Grande-Entrée (Îlot C). Protective measures have been taken at the three colonies to curtail predation by foxes. Electric fences were erected around two colonies, and platforms designed to serve as nest shelters have been set up at each colony to induce the terns to breed. Predation as a result of increasing numbers of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls is also a concern.
Île Paquet is situated less than a hundred metres from a marina. The proximity of regular boat traffic means that the potential for boaters to stop and visit the island and thereby cause a disturbance is high.
The area is a paradise for many marine animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. The deep-water of Gulf harbor a variety of crustaceans, mollusks and benthic fish, including the yellowtail flounder, the winter flounder and the Atlantic halibut, a species highly prized by commercial fishermen. The American lobster is a important economic resource in the region. Many species also inhabit the offshore waters. For example, the mackerel is important for both the fishing industry and for its role in the food chain. The sandy beaches are populated by Atlantic surf clam and by soft-shell clam, two species targeted by the local population for recreational fishing. The Atlantic surf clam is also fished commercially with hand tools and hydraulic dredges. Spartina marshes and numerous brooks are found in the area and they are used as feeding and resting areas for a variety of fish, such the rainbow smelt and American eel. Brooks are also used for the reproduction of some species, such as rainbow smelt.
The main pressures on fish habitat are related to port operations, navigation, dredging and increased coastal erosion (increased suspended sediment, increased noise, riprap, etc.).
Major species present:
Atlantic surf clam
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