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Baie Comeau (QC082)

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Baie Comeau (QC082)

Baie-Comeau, Québec

Latitude 49.221°N
Longitude 68.103°W
Altitude 0 - 20m
Area 35.96km²

Site Description

This bay is adjacent to the town of Baie-Comeau, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence lower esturary, Quebec. It includes the coast from Pointe Saint-Gilles to the marina, Baie des Écorces, Baie Comeau and part of Baie des Anglais. Access to the site is easily available on foot via the Parc des Pionniers. Most of the site is open water, with mud flats being uncovered at low tides. These mud flats vary from 500 m to 1,700 m wide depending on the tides. Baie Comeau, which is part of the larger Des Anglais Bay, is about 1 km wide at its opening and extends inland about half a kilometre. It is at most 110 m deep. The terrestrial portion of the site is near two large factories, and is part of the town of Baie-Comeau. The natural coastal zone was modified to allow the development of roads, a marina, and urban areas. There is little vegetation in the park area, and the original marshes were destroyed by the man-made developments. The bay is a major component of the downstream part of the Manicouagan River estuary, which has left 10 m of deltaic sand sediments at the bottom of the bay.

Birds

This site is part of the most important wintering area within eastern North America for the nationally Special Concern Barrow's Goldeneye (eastern population). A large proportion of this population winter here and in other portions of ice-free water in the St. Lawrence River. For over a decade, rafts of over 400 individuals have been regularly observed in winter. A peak count of 1,020 birds were tallied in 1998, which represents just over about one-third of this eastern population. In three other years counts have also been high, with 900 birds in 1993 and 1,000 in 1989 and 1990. In other years, however, the counts can be less than 200, although these numbers are still continentally significant. The species is present from December to mid-April.

On the shore of the Comeau Bay there are breeding colonies of Ring-billed, Great Black-backed and Herring gulls. In 1997, all three gulls nested in their highest numbers, with 3,022, 26 and 355 pairs, respectively. Common Eiders nest in small numbers but can be quite numerous during fall migration. A total of 1,000 birds were recorded in the bay in 1985. Common Tern and Bonaparte's Gull can be numerous during fall migration as well.

Three species of birds that are nationally at risk have been recorded during migration, although in low numbers and not annually: Harlequin Duck (endangered eastern population), Piping Plover (endangered) and Short-eared Owl (Special Concern). The Horned Grebe, which is provincially at risk, has also been recorded here, in the spring of 1989.

Conservation Issues

The sediment quality of the bay is poor as it has elevated concentrations of PCBs, PAHs, phenols, mineral oils and greases; SPM and gaiacol have been detected in sediments and in biota. In the past, the aluminium production plant nearby was releasing PCBs into the larger Baie des Anglais and the Paper Company of Quebec and Ontario, Limited, produced effluents consisting of SPM and mineral oils and greases, which were released into the estuary via Comeau Brook.

The site is inside of the Priority Intervention Zones of Baie-Comeau (ZIP 18) and is subject to a wildlife management project (the bay of Comeau restoration) which includes development of habitat for birds other than Ring-billed Gulls. There has been a wildlife management project that included a Ring-billed Gull control program, which had the objective of chasing this species away from the Parc des Pionniers area.

Fish Habitat

The landscape of the area is typified by salt marshes, intertidal rocky shore, mudflats, river's estuaries and long sandy beaches. The mixing of the cold and well-oxygenated waters with the warmer waters of the St. Lawrence favors an unusual marine biodiversity. Several marine species are commercially exploited, such as the common whelk, the soft-shell clam, the green sea urchins, the Stimpson's surf clams, the snow crab and the Atlantic herring. Moreover, the harvest of soft-shell clam at low tide is a popular recreational activity throughout the region of Lower North Shore. The north shore of the estuary is also hosting a variety of pelagic species occupying an important role in the food chain, such as the capelin and the rainbow smelt are also targeted by the sport fishermen.

The fish habitat is affected by coastal erosion, residential development, harnessing of rivers and the creation of resorts. In addition, the presence of industries discharging pollutants in the system does impacts the water quality. The Atlantic salmon is sensible to aluminum contamination through bioaccumulation of the residues present in the system.


Major species present:
Atlantic herring
Atlantic salmon
Capelin
Green sea urchin
Snow crab
Soft-shell clam
Stimpson's surf clam

Plants

The salinity of the St. Lawrence water has a strong influence on the flora of the coastal habitats. Salt marshes are dominated by saltmeadow cordgrass, tall cordgrass, red fescue and chaffy paleacea. Present in a variable proportion, a variety of plants typical of estuarine environments: sea pea, Scotch lovage, American searocket, sea milkwort, etc. In areas submerged where substrate is thin, and water velocity is small, eelgrass grows. Eelgrass beds are home to an amazing biodiversity: shellfish, crustacean, fish, etc. which attract many predators. Several fish-eating birds such as the great blue heron come to take a meal. The Brant goose is closely linked with this habitat since the underground parts of the eelgrass are at the basis of its diet.

Habitat loss, whether caused by human interventions (wetland drainage, road construction, urban spread, etc.) or through natural phenomena (coastal erosion) severely impact the flora. Similarly, water pollution and risks of oil spills are issues of special concern for the flora and fauna of these areas.

Major species present :
American searocket
Chaffy paleacea
Marine eelgrass
Red fescue
Saltmeadow cordgrass
Scotch lovage
Sea milkwort
Sea pea / Beach pea
Tall cordgrass

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Surf Scoter
Number Year Season
7,500 - 10,7001998Spring
6,0001996Spring
8,0001991Spring
25,0001983Spring
Bonaparte's Gull
Number Year Season
4,0002016Fall
3,5002015Fall
3,0002010Fall
3,0002003Fall
4,0001998Fall
4,000 - 5,0001996Fall
3,000 - 6,0001994Fall
4,000 - 5,0001993Fall
2,200 - 8,0001992Fall
2,000 - 5,0001991Fall
2,5001985Fall
2,000 - 6,5001984Fall
??Fall
Black Scoter
Number Year Season
3,500 - 5,0002015Spring
2,5002014Spring
5,0001998Spring
8,000 - 16,0001996Spring
4,0001995Spring
1,5001994Spring
1,0001993Spring
800 - 2,0001992Spring
800 - 1,0001991Spring
3,0001986Spring
1,0001985Spring
Little Gull
Number Year Season
32016Fall
22003Fall
21994Fall
Red-breasted Merganser
Number Year Season
3,0001985Spring
2,0001983Spring
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
150 - 4502016Winter
70 - 802011Winter
50 - 1,3102010Winter
352010Spring
50 - 4002009Winter
1502008Winter
7502005Winter
1581999Winter
1,0201998Winter
7001996Winter
401996Spring
40 - 4001995Winter
30 - 2501994Winter
301994Spring
25 - 9001993Winter
401993Fall
20 - 3001993Spring
340 - 5001992Winter
30 - 601992Fall
30 - 5001992Spring
90 - 5001991Winter
20 - 501991Spring
30 - 1,0001990Winter
200 - 6001990Spring
200 - 1,0001989Winter
20 - 3001989Spring
100 - 5001988Winter
100 - 4001988Spring
100 - 6001987Winter
1501987Fall
25 - 6001987Spring
200 - 3001986Winter
601986Fall
60 - 3001986Spring
25 - 2001985Spring
45 - 601985Winter
25 - 501984Winter
501984Fall
25 - 3001984Spring
Bohemian Waxwing
Number Year Season
11,0672008Winter