IBA Cascumpec Bay/Alberton Harbour
Alberton, Prince Edward Island
Site Summary
PE003 Latitude
46.782° N
64.046° W
0 - 20 m
89.10 km²
salt marshes/brackish marshes, tidal rivers/estuaries, coastal sand dunes & beaches, inlets/coastal features (marine)
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Fisheries/aquaculture, Hunting
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Agricultural pollution/pesticides, Disturbance, Interactions with native species/disease
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
Cascumpec Bay / Alberton Harbour is located at the base of Prince Edward Islands northeast peninsula, on the east coast. It is a large bay (about 40 km²) that is protected from the Gulf of St. Lawrence by a series of sand spits and barrier islands with sand dunes. The sandy beaches extend to the north past Jacques Cartier Provincial Park. The largest of these islands has been named the Cascumpec Sand Hills. Several estuaries are located along the landward side of the bay, including the Kildare River, Mill River, Foxely River and Trout River. The bay is fairly shallow, and the adjoining land (on Permian sandstone) is quite flat. The south end of the bay directly adjoins a large area of peat lands (known locally as Black Banks).
Similar to the other bays and inlets along Prince Edward Island's coast, Cascumpec Bay supports large numbers of staging Canada Geese (from the Newfoundland and Labrador population) during both spring and fall migration. Over a six year period (1992-97) one-day aerial surveys (mid-November) recorded an average of 444 geese. If migratory turnover were considered, the total number of geese using the site over the entire season is much greater. In fact, it has been estimated that about 2,000 and 1,700 geese (individuals) use the area during spring and fall migration respectively.

The Cascumpec Sand Hills often support breeding Piping Plovers, a species identified as a nationally Endangered (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada; COSEWIC) and globally Near Threatened (International Union for Conservation of Nature; IUCN). For the past ten years, Piping Plovers have regularly nested on the sand hills; 7 individuals in 2002, 2 each year from 2003-2007, 4 in 2008, 5 in 2009, 4 in 2010, and 2 in 2011.

This site is also home to a Great Blue Heron colony (Oultons Island), and several Osprey nests are situated adjacent to the bay too. Historically, this site also supported a colony of breeding Common Terns (Cascumpec Sand Hills) with estimates as high as 1,000 pairs in the late 1980s, however, terns no longer use this area (colony abandoned).

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Barrow's Goldeneye 2017 WI 45 - 50
Piping Plover 2000 SP 5
Piping Plover 1991 - 2019 SU 5 - 14
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
The marine and inter-tidal areas of Cascumpec Bay / Alberton Harbour are overseen by the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department. Almost all of the surrounding land area, except (probably) the barrier dune islands and Jacques Cartier Provincial Park, are privately owned. Much of the land surrounding the bay is used for intensive agricultural purposes. Due to the high level of pesticide and fertilizer usage, there is some concern about the affect of contaminated runoff on the estuarine and adjacent inter-tidal areas. Also of concern is the level of disturbance on the sandy beaches and islands where the Piping Plovers (and formerly, Common Terns) nest.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada