The Île aux Basques lies 4 km offshore of Trois-Pistoles, in the marine estuary of Saint-Lawrence River, Quebec. L' Île aux Basques and the Razades are three rocky islands that belong, from a geological perspective, to the Appalachian Mountains. The Île aux Basques is the only island with forest cover a fresh water supply, and year-long occupation by birds. At low tide, the south shore of the Île aux Basques expose a vast mudflat whereas the north shore, which correspond to the end of the Appalachians, is bordered by a zone of deep waters. The zone that extends around three kilometers north of the island is an important staging area for aquatic birds. The Razades are two small islands 5 and 7 kilometres down-river from the Île aux Basques
At the end of the 15th century the Île aux Basques was used by Europeans; one of the first sites used by Europeans in the country. It was also a place where Europeans and First Nations people traded. Given its long use, the island has conserved a remarkably pristine character. The Société Provancher, which owns the island, offers a summer and fall boat service.
Île aux Basques et les Razades support a diverse array of waterbirds. About 2,000, or at least 1% of the poorly known Red-throated Loon population has been recorded in May. Double-crested Cormorants were found in nationally significant numbers here. In total, over 1,000 nests were recorded, representing greater than 1% of the estimated Atlantic population. Additionally, roughly 2% (2,000 birds) of the estimated Atlantic flyway population of Black Duck were found.
The island is a favourite for birders. Since the 1930s, over 229 species have been seen in the 1 km² area around the island. Other birds found at this site include Osprey, Great Blue Heron (20 pairs), Brant (300), Common Eider (1,000), Herring Gull (700 pairs), Surf Scoter (1,500), Barrow's Goldeneye (20), Red-breasted Merganser (2,000), and Purple Sandpiper (10).
The three islands of this IBA have been a Migratory Bird Sanctuary since 1927. The Sanctuary includes the three islands and adjacent waters. Banding of migrant landbirds has occurred on the main island. The Société Provancher restricts the access to the islands and has a full-time guardian living at Trois-Pistoles. Within the Île aux Basques, visitors are allowed neither on the entire island from 20 May to 15 June, nor around the gull-eider colonies, the heronry and the osprey's nest-site in order to reduce disturbance. Île aux Basques hosts about 10-20 visitors per day from May to October. The Black-crowned Night-Herons may have stopped breeding on the island because of this visitation disturbance. Red Fox is present on the island on average 4 out of 5 years. This mammal crosses an ice-bridge that is formed between the mainland and the island in winter. When fox are absent, 200-300 pairs of eiders and as many Herring Gulls breed on the island. The Razades, are free of human visitors and of fox predation as well.
The landscape of the are is made out of Spartina marsh, eelgrass beds, rocky shores and gravel or pebbles beaches. Some rivers are hosting rainbow smelt spawning runs (the south shore population of the St. Lawrence middle estuary). At the beginning of the summer, it is possbile to observe capelin rolling on the beaches during spawning. The downstream migration of American eel toward their breeding sites in the Atlantic, which takes place in the fall, allows the capture of migraing adults using fishing weirs. Two other species commercially exploited are also roaming in the open waters of the estuary: the Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic herring.
Loss of fish habitat remains a major problem in the region. The dikes, for example, reduce the number of spawning habitats, while agricultural along the coast, the residential development and the presence of resorts together with coastal erosion are resulting in the destruction of several riparian ecosystems.
Major species present:
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)
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 :
Sea pea / Beach pea
|600 - 700||1996||Spring|
|2,500 - 3,000||1970||Summer|
|3,000 - 5,000||1969||Fall|
|60 - 75||1967||Spring|
|20 - 30||1963||Spring|