The Rocher aux Oiseaux and the associated Rocher aux Margaulx are located about 32 km northeast of the Magdalen Islands archipelago. These sandstone rocks (about 1 km apart) emerge from the sea at the edge of the Laurentian channel, which is located in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Rocher aux Oiseaux is a flat topped island with 30 m high rock cliffs on nearly all sides. A lighthouse (now automated) and three associated buildings are located on the plateau. About 70% of the area is covered by herbs, and the remainder is bare rock. The Rocher aux Margaulx was broken into two parts more than a century ago, and is gradually be worn away by the sea. Only a small plateau remains. A third island, which was documented in Jacques Cartier's 1534 voyage to Canada, has been completely eroded away. The Rocher aux Oiseaux and Rocher aux Margaux can be reached by helicopter or boat from the Grosse-Île sea-harbour, but access is restricted.
The Rocher aux Oiseaux and Rocher aux Margaulx support one of the six Northern Gannet Colonies in North America. In 1994, the colony was estimated to contain 9,868 pairs. This is about a 20% increase from the 1989 survey when 7,640 pairs was estimated, and almost a 50% increase from the 1984 survey when 6,590 pairs were recorded. In 1989, this colony supported about 17% of the estimated North American Northern Gannet population. Like other colonies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this colony has been increasing at a rate of 3 to 4% per year. In addition to Northern Gannets, a number of other seabirds nest on these islands including: Black-legged Kittiwakes (3,701 pairs in 1989 which represents over 1% of the estimated Western Atlantic population); Razorbills (about 500 birds in 1987); Common Murre (about 500 birds in 1989); Thick-billed Murres (as many as 500-1000 birds in the early 1970s, but more recently less than 100 birds); and Atlantic Puffins (about 100 birds in 1989). Moreover, it would be probable to find a few nesting Black Guillemots, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, and Leach's Storm-Petrels.
The Rocher aux Oiseaux, and the associated Rocher aux Margaulx, were declared a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary by the Canadian Government in 1919. In this respect, the islands are relatively well protected from threats. Surprisingly, however, a proposal was recently put forward for the development of a recreational project on the island. It was turned down by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Erosion is a constant threat to the islands, and over the last century and a half the main rock, rocher aux Oiseaux, has lost nearly 50% of its area. Oil pollution is also a concern due to the proximity of the islands to the main shipping route that leads to the St. Lawrence seaway.
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
|5,000 - 50,000||2011||Summer|
|2,000 - 60,020||2009||Summer|
|1,000 - 50,000||1994||Fall|
|800 - 15,000||1993||Summer|
|7,500 - 10,000||1990||Fall|
|5,000 - 15,280||1989||Summer|
|1,000 - 20,000||2011||Summer|