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Île Bonaventure / Bonaventure Island (QC001)

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Île Bonaventure / Bonaventure Island (QC001)

Percé, Québec

Latitude 48.495°N
Longitude 64.161°W
Altitude 0 - 135m
Area 19.55km²

Site Description

Bonaventure Island is located on the Gulf of St Lawrence approximately 3.5 km from the shore of the Gaspé Peninsula. The 416 ha island is roughly circular in shape with cliffs on the southeastern and northeastern shores rising to a height of approximately 75 m. The island lies within the Atlantic Highlands biome with balsam fir and spruce being dominant species. The cliffs and shorelines are generally devoid of vegetation with the exception of some arctic / alpine species that are able to withstand the harsh microclimate. Thus far, 572 vascular plant species have been recorded on the island, including eight that are rare in the province of Quebec and five that are provincially vulnerable or threatened.

Birds

Bonaventure Island is famous for its Northern Gannet colony. In 2012, more than 51,700 breeding pairs were observed making it the largest colony in North America and the world. The cliffs of Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock are also home to an equally impressive number of Black-legged Kittiwakes and Common Murres. In 2013, approximately 8200 pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes were recorded, making this colony one of the largest in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; nearby Forillon and Anticosti Island also support large numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes. These three colonies combined are home to about 70% of the breeding population within the Gulf. In 2008, 17, 272 pairs of Common Murres were observed, which corresponds to about half of its population within the Gulf. Eleven species of seabirds breed here, the most common being Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black Guillemot, and Razorbill. Harlequin Ducks can also be found frequenting the waters surrounding this IBA during the summer and early fall. Harlequin Ducks (eastern population) are listed as a nationally endangered species. In addition to seabirds, Bonaventure Island IBA supports a typical community of boreal forest birds such as Blackpoll Warbler and Boreal Chickadee along with other habitat generalists that frequent the fallow fields. In total, 218 species of birds have been recorded here.

Conservation Issues

Bonaventure Island was permanently settled from 1787 to 1963. Over this period much of the island was cleared for agriculture. During the 19th century the seabird colonies were heavily exploited for food and other uses. At the turn of the century declining numbers of seabirds became an increasing concern and the Canadian government declared the eastern and northern cliffs a federal migratory bird sanctuary in 1919. By 1963, just a few summer bird residents remained which prompted the Québec government to purchase the island in 1971, and in 1974 Percé Rock was added to this nature reserve. In 1985, this area became a provincial park, Parc de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, where preservation of ecological features is key. Currently the park has 15 km of hiking trails, conservation zones where access is controlled, and an "intense conservation zone" which prohibits direct access to some seabird colonies. The park is a popular tourist destination, with the seabirds being the main attraction. Approximately 60,000 people visit the island each year. Fences, observation platforms, and programs to increase public awareness are used to minimize disturbance to the birds. Since 2010, the breeding success of the Northern Gannet is declining at an alarming rate. In 2013, the chicks survival rate was 36%, which is superior to the rate recorded over the past two years, but far away from the historical average of 70%. Several research teams are trying to improve understanding of the root causes. A potential cause is the warming of the Gulf's surface waters leading to changes in the distribution of the fish stocks on which the Northern Gannet is feeding.

Fish Habitat

This region is typified by a mosaic of habitats which host a wide range of marine and migratory species. The barachois, the eelgrass beds and the river's estuaries are key habitats for many species of fish and shellfish such as sticklebacks, winter flounder and soft-shell clam. At sea, the Atlantic mackerel, the Atlantic herring, the rainbow smelt, the American lobster, the snow crab, the common crab and the scallop are harvested commercially. At the beginning of the summer, capelin is rolling on the beaches to spawn. The presence of several salmon rivers in the area attracts many anglers. These rivers are also home to brook trout and American eel.

The major pressures on the ichthyofauna are overfishing and destruction of fish habitat, such as the draining of wetlands and the modification of the shoreline (erosion, riprap). Forestry is also a threat because it causes significant alterations in the rivers of the area, such as increasing the sediment load, the modification of both water flow and water temperature.

Major species present:
American eel
American sand lance
Atlantic herring
Atlantic mackerel
Atlantic salmon
Atlantic sea scallop
Atlantic tomcod
Blue mussel
Brook trout
Capelin
Commun crab
Iceland scallop
Mummichog
Rainbow smelt
Soft-shell clam
Stickleback
Winter flounder
Witch flounder

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Northern Gannet
Number Year Season
50,000 - 53,0002016Fall
20,000 - 200,0002016Summer
40,0002016Spring
10,000 - 50,0002015Fall
50,000 - 80,0002015Summer
10,500 - 75,0002015Spring
10,000 - 30,0002014Fall
30,000 - 100,0002014Summer
30,000 - 100,0002013Fall
1,300 - 40,0002013Summer
18,000 - 100,0002012Fall
2,000 - 95,0002012Summer
2,000 - 100,0002011Summer
18,0002010Fall
20,000 - 50,0002010Summer
10,000 - 75,0002009Fall
119,172 - 120,0002009Summer
20,0002008Summer
10,0002007Fall
100,0002006Summer
5,0002005Fall
40,000 - 100,0002004Fall
10,000 - 107,2702004Summer
2,0002003Summer
100,0002002Fall
2,0002001Fall
2,0002001Summer
25,0002000Summer
73,872 - 74,0001999Summer
6,5001999Spring
10,0001996Summer
20,0001995Fall
63,148 - 64,0961994Summer
5,000 - 10,0001993Summer
100,0001992Fall
30,0001992Summer
10,0001992Spring
5,0001991Summer
5,000 - 80,0001990Fall
40,000 - 50,0001990Summer
30,0001990Spring
5,000 - 15,0001989Fall
48,2501989Summer
5,0001988Fall
10,000 - 50,0001988Summer
5,0001987Fall
4,0001987Spring
10,0001986Fall
50,0001986Summer
20,0001985Winter
10,0001985Fall
10,000 - 20,0001984Fall
10,000 - 42,1801984Summer
10,000 - 30,0001983Fall
10,000 - 30,0001983Summer
10,000 - 40,0001982Fall
10,000 - 30,0001982Summer
25,0001981Summer
20,0001981Spring
2,500 - 30,0001980Fall
15,0001980Summer
10,000 - 50,0001979Fall
30,000 - 35,0001979Summer
20,0001978Fall
20,0001978Summer
5,000 - 30,0001977Fall
10,0001977Summer
35,000 - 60,0001976Fall
20,000 - 65,0001976Summer
40,0001976Spring
20,000 - 30,0001975Fall
15,000 - 50,0001975Summer
20,0001975Spring
50,0001974Fall
2,000 - 45,0001974Spring
50,0001973Fall
50,0001973Summer
20,0001972Fall
20,000 - 50,0001971Fall
10,000 - 41,0221969Summer
5,0001965Fall
10,000 - 50,0001964Fall
1,000 - 30,8801963Summer
10,0001962Fall
7,0001962Summer
10,0001961Fall
2,500 - 8,0001960Fall
1,000 - 5,0001960Summer
5,0001950Fall
Razorbill
Number Year Season
3,000 - 6,0002016Summer
2,500 - 3,0002016Spring
2,0002015Summer
2,0002015Spring
1,0002014Summer
2,0002013Fall
1,0002013Summer
2,5002012Summer
5,0002010Summer
2,104 - 2,6462008Summer
1,2782002Summer
1,0002000Summer
3,0001976Spring
??Other
Black-legged Kittiwake
Number Year Season
100,0002013Summer
17,996 - 19,6442008Summer
37,1002002Summer
5,0001993Summer
5,0001992Spring
10,0001990Summer
20,0001990Spring
47,3001989Summer
10,0001988Summer
5,0001986Summer
5,000 - 30,0001984Summer
10,000 - 30,0001983Summer
10,000 - 20,0001982Fall
15,000 - 30,0001982Summer
5,0001982Spring
5,000 - 20,0001981Spring
10,0001979Fall
30,0001979Summer
10,0001978Summer
5,000 - 8,0001978Spring
15,000 - 30,0001977Fall
5,000 - 10,0001976Summer
5,000 - 40,0001976Spring
20,0001975Fall
5,000 - 12,0001975Summer
5,0001975Spring
18,0001974Fall
30,0001974Spring
10,0001973Fall
30,0001973Summer
10,0001969Summer
50,0001964Fall
Herring Gull
Number Year Season
3362008Summer
10,0001978Fall
5,0001976Summer
??Other
Black Guillemot
Number Year Season
3,5002012Summer
4,0002010Summer
2682008Summer
??Other
Common Murre
Number Year Season
33,808 - 34,5442008Summer
56,4782002Summer
55,7141989Summer
15,000 - 20,0001982Summer
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
22 - 401992Winter
361990Winter
791988Winter
491984Winter
971983Winter
301979Winter
26 - 481976Winter
Harlequin Duck
Number Year Season
941999Spring
751995Summer
15 - 351993Summer
901992Fall
151992Summer
191990Fall
301990Summer
331990Spring
25 - 1181989Fall
13 - 501988Fall
24 - 261988Summer
231987Fall
261985Winter
121984Fall
401984Summer
111983Fall
17 - 341982Fall
13 - 161982Summer
311981Spring
10 - 121980Fall
10 - 351979Fall
201976Summer
101976Spring
181974Spring
101969Summer
Great Black-backed Gull
Number Year Season
4102008Summer
1,5001978Fall
??Other