The bounty of the St. Lawrence Gulf and its estuary comes from the nutrient-rich currents from the Atlantic Ocean that mix with fresh water from the interior. Jurisdiction is split between Canada’s federal government and five provinces, complicating management. Years of overfishing, warming waters, and possible offshore drilling cause concern for the ecosystem’s health.
The gulf is the mouth of the St. Lawrence waterway, trafficked yearly by some 5,000 containerships, tankers, and other vessels.
Overfishing has sharply reduced cod numbers, with most stocks endangered. Meanwhile, the lobster catch has surged.
Canada is considering culling 70,000 gray seals to boost cod stocks, though whether seals eat too many cod is unproven.
Thirst for Oil
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Scientists have identified ten ecologically sensitive areas in the gulf, which harbors some 30 at-risk species of fish, birds, and marine mammals.
Both federal and provincial governments are promoting oil development and licensing exploration in some prime ecological zones.
Old Harry is the most promising hydrocarbon prospect in the gulf. Foes of drilling warn of oil spills under the ice in winter.
Martin Gamache, NGM Staff. Sources: Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Ministère des Ressources Naturelles, Quebec; Ministère du Développement Durable, de L’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs, Quebec; Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board; St. Lawrence Coalition; St. Lawrence Economic Development Council