Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area

Description | Management | Public Services | Map of the Area | Summary Table | Contact Information

Somewhat far view of the Estuary Islands NWA islands.Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area, islands.

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Description

Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area (NWA) is made up of ten rocky islands or portions of islands scattered over some 120 kilometers between Kamouraska and Rimouski in the heart of the St. Lawrence Estuary. This 404-hectare protected area was established in 1986 by Environment Canada to protect important nesting sites for migratory birds, particularly colonial seabirds and especially the Common Eider.

Its rocky islands are covered by Balsam Fir, White Birch stands and White Spruce stands and herbaceous vegetation. They are bordered by large mudflats or rocky flats that are occupied by communities of mixed algae. A hundred or more species of birds visit the NWA, a large proportion of which also nest there. The islands are also home to nearly a dozen mammal species. Species at risk frequenting the wildlife area and its surroundings include the Peregrine Falcon, Red Knot and Barrow's Goldeneye.

The wildlife area accommodates large colonies of seabirds such as the Common Eider, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black-legged Kittiwake, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, and Herring Gull. These birds are highly sensitive to human disturbance. The colony of Common Eiders on Île Bicquette counts more than 7 000 pairs, making it one of the largest colonies for that species in North America. Some of the NWA islands are also frequented by the largest colonies of Razorbills and Black Guillemots in the St. Lawrence Estuary. During migration periods, many waterfowl species, including the Brant, Snow Goose, Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, Oldsquaw and Black Duck, descend upon the islands, bordering flats and adjacent waters and can sometimes be observed in the hundreds or thousands. The most common land mammals in the wildlife area are the Muskrat, Red Fox and Snowshoe Hare. The Grey Seal and Harbour Seal are often found along the shores.

Estuary Islands National Wildlife Area is exposed to a range of threats and presents management challenges, including wildlife diseases, the disturbance of colonial birds due to predators and human activities, the presence of invasive exotic plant species, and the risk of accidental oil spills in the St. Lawrence.

More information on Estuary Islands NWA is provided in the summary table below.

Management

NWAs are protected and managed according to the Wildlife Area Regulations under the Canada Wildlife Act. The primary purpose of NWAs is the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitats. For this purpose, and according to the legislation, Environment and Climate Change Canada can prohibit all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, public access and activities are prohibited in most NWAs. Nonetheless, the Ministry has the ability to authorize some activities, whether through public notice or the issuance of permits, as long as these are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Due to the fragility of wildlife species and island environments, public access to Estuary Islands NWA is prohibited except for one of the islands, Le Pot du Phare. Visitors have access through the transportation service offered by Duvetnor and authorized by Environment and Climate Change Canada, from mid-July to mid-October, following the seabird nesting season.

Permits may be issued for research activities in keeping with the priorities set out in the management plan for the wildlife area or for other conservation activities such as surveys, or the enhancement or restoration of habitats.

Priority will be given to collaborative activities with local agencies and organizations to promote the protection and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitats in the NWA. For example, initiatives could be launched or continued with the following entities: universities or research centers to address gaps in scientific knowledge; the province to implement recovery measures for species at risk (particularly those falling under provincial jurisdiction); or non-governmental organizations or municipal authorities to build public awareness of the wildlife area's objectives.

More information on access and permitting for Estuary Islands NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Notice from Environment and Climate Change Canada

Download PDF version - Notice from Environment and Climate Change Canada [Estuary Islands] (PDF; 141 KB)

Environment and Climate Change Canada would like to inform the public that the Estuary Islands NWA--a string of a dozen islands located in the middle of the St. Lawrence Estuary in the municipalities of Rimouski, Saint-André and Kamouraska--is a protected area. Since its creation in 1986, the NWA has been protecting wildlife and the nesting sites of migratory birds in the area, particularly those of seabird colonies.

To protect the area, the Department is informing visitors to areas around NWA islands of their obligation to follow certain rules, as dictated by the Canada Wildlife Act and its corresponding regulations. Anyone who neglects to follow these rules or obey the laws in effect may be subject to fines and prosecution.

Nature viewing and hiking are authorized in designated areas on Le Pot du Phare island.

Without a permit issued by the Minister, it is strictly prohibited for anyone in the NWA to (see section 3.(1) of the Wildlife Area Regulations):

For complete information on all applicable regulations, please consult the Canada Wildlife Act, Wildlife Area Regulations, 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act, and Species at Risk Act at Environment and Climate Change Canada website.

To file a complaint or report illegal activities, please contact Environment and Climate Change Canada by phone at 1-800-668-6767 or by email at enviro@info.ec.gc.ca.

This notice shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any Aboriginal, treaty or other rights of Aboriginal peoples.

Public Services

Public activities and services at Estuary Islands NWA are offered by the Société Duvetnor Ltée. These include guided hiking tours and outreach activities to build awareness of wildlife species habitat conservation. Please contact the Société Duvetnor for additional information.

Activities and Services

Special warnings

Access to islands is prohibited without a permit except for Le Pot du Phare when accompanied by a guide.

Location of wildlife area (access)

Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec.

More information on services offered to public can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the Area

Long description for the Map

Map showing the section of the St. Lawrence River situated between Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska and La Malbaie. The boundaries of Estuary Islands NWA are indicated. The protected Area covers portions of several islands, including Îles de Kamouraska, Long Pèlerin, Île aux Fraises, Île du Pot du Phare, Île Blanche et Île Bicquette. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Estuary Islands NWA can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

This table provides summary information for the Estuary Islands NWA
CategoryInformation
Protected area designationNational Wildlife Area
Province/TerritoryQuebec
Latitude/longitude47°35' North / 68°53' West
Size404 hectares ( about 83.5 ha of land and 320.5 ha of flats)
Reason for creation of protected areaProtection of nesting sites of importance to migratory birds, particularly colonial seabirds and especially the Common Eider
Date created (Gazetted)1986 - Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management CategoryIa - Strict Nature Reserve: protected area set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological or geomorphological features.
Additional designations

part of five Important Birds Area (IBA):

Keystone or flagship speciesCommon Eider, Razorbill
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act SARAThree species at risk: the Peregrine Falcon (subspecies anatum/tundrius), Red Knot (subspecies rufa) and Barrow's Goldeneye (Eastern population)
Main habitat typeIslands and rocks composed of shale and quartzite are dotted with forests and stretches of herbaceous plants. Mudflats and rocky flats occupied by communities of mixed algae.
Faunistic and floristic importanceThe NWA shelters one of the largest colonies of Common Eiders in North America. It also accommodates the largest colonies of Razorbills and Black Guillemots in the St. Lawrence Estuary, notably on Le Pot du Phare and Le Long Pèlerin islands. The colony of Black-legged Kittiwakes on Le Long Pèlerin is the westernmost in Quebec.
Invasive speciesThe Reed Canary Grass, Wild Radish and Smooth Bedstraw are considered to be invasive plants in some islands of the NWA. Should it become overly abundant, the Double-crested Cormorant could be considered a nuisance species.
Additional links

Birds: Great Blue Heron, Gulls.

Mammals: Muskrat, Snowshoe Hare, and Grey Seal.

Main threats and challengesWildlife diseases, disturbance of colonial birds due to predators and human activities, invasion by exotic plant species and risk of accidental oil spills in the St. Lawrence
Management AgencyEnvironment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usageRestricted access to Le Pot du Phare, one of Îles du Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie (Brandypot) islands; only when transported and guided by the society authorized by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas
801-1550 D’Estimauville Avenue
Québec (Quebec)
G1J 0C3
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
Société Duvetnor
P.O. Box 305
200 Hayward Street
Rivière-du-Loup (Quebec)
G5R 3Y9
Phone number : 418-867-1660
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