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La Malbaie–Pointe-au-Pic (QC094)


La Malbaie–Pointe-au-Pic (QC094)

La Malbaie–Pointe-au-Pic, Québec

Latitude 47.644°N
Longitude 70.126°W
Altitude 0 - 5.8m
Area 15.85km²

Site Description

The town of La Malbaie-Pointe-au-Pic is situated along the St. Lawrence River north shore where the transition from fresh water to salt water begins. The site is located at the mouth of the Malbaie River, and covers the entire bay (also called La Malbaie) and an additional 10.5 kilometres of shoreline. It extends offshore (an as yet undetermined amount), and inland up to the high tide limit. The entire bay is dry at low tide except for a small channel created by the waters of the Malbaie River.


Many ducks are present here during the open-water period. Barrow's Goldeneye, with its relatively small eastern population, exceeds the continental threshold during winter and spring with as many as 350 birds seen (7% of the population). Their peak numbers occur in March, just shortly after the ice break-up, but they can also be seen in high numbers earlier in winter (196 in 1998). Other ducks that can be seen here are American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Eider, Black Scoter (200 in 1993), Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser. The nationally endangered Harlequin Duck (eastern population) has also occurred here.

One species seen at this site in globally significant numbers is the Black Guillemot; thousands are regularly seen offshore in the winter. The peak number was recorded in December, 1996, when a group of 3,000 individuals was observed (2% of the world population). They can also be seen, albeit in smaller numbers, during spring migration.

The vast exposed sandflats of the bay are a resting and feeding area for gulls; there are often a few thousand birds during ice free periods. Iceland Gull is present during winter, with peak numbers of over 200 birds recorded (over 1% of the global population). Two other gull species, Great Black-backed and Glaucous, are also present at this time of year in similar numbers. Generally, though, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls are the most numerous gull species with up to 2,500 (breeding in 1995) and 1,500 individuals (fall migration, 1981), respectively.

Conservation Issues

With the St. Lawrence being a heavily travelled seaway, oil spills are a constant risk. Although their effects are not fully known, industrial pollutants are still present in the waters despite efforts to reduce them. The same is true for locally produced pollutants.

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
Green sea urchin
Snow crab
Soft-shell clam
Stimpson's surf clam


The landscape of the coastal region is punctuated with salt marshes. Plant species that grow are especially well adapted to survive the rigors of the environment. They occupy different parts of the marsh according to their tolerance to salinity and immersion (tides). We found there mainly cordgrass, saltmeadow cordgrass and glasswort. The tight formation of stems and the large roots network of cordgrass promote the deposition and retention of sediments, reducing coastal erosion. In areas with weak currents, eelgrass colonizes silty soils, while seaweeds attach and inhabit rocky substrates.

The destruction and loss of habitats (shoreline fill, draining wetlands, urbanization) are the main threats affecting the ecosystems of the area. Water pollution and risks of oil spills remain issues of concern. The spread of invasive species need to be monitored. It should be noted that the region is home to 18 endemic plant species, including two endangered species in Québec.

Major species present :
Cordgrass – main species
Saltmeadow cordgrass
Marine eelgrass

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Rusty Blackbird
Number Year Season
Black Guillemot
Number Year Season
Little Gull
Number Year Season
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
75 - 1002017Winter
50 - 1002016Winter
40 - 502016Spring
70 - 1502015Winter
180 - 6202015Fall
40 - 702015Spring
70 - 2502014Winter
60 - 652014Fall
40 - 1102014Spring
35 - 8002013Winter
90 - 1002012Winter
65 - 2002010Winter
40 - 502007Winter
60 - 652004Spring
50 - 1752003Winter
60 - 1002003Spring
45 - 502002Fall
35 - 1252002Winter
75 - 1402001Winter
40 - 752000Winter
85 - 1002000Fall
40 - 1502000Spring
50 - 601999Spring
43 - 1801999Winter
35 - 3501997Spring
100 - 2251997Winter
30 - 501996Winter
20 - 1251996Spring
120 - 2001995Winter
30 - 751995Fall
30 - 3001995Spring
20 - 501994Spring
20 - 501993Spring
20 - 301993Winter
70 - 901992Spring
40 - 2001991Winter
30 - 801989Spring
Red-breasted Merganser
Number Year Season