November 9, 2015
Yours to be discovered: An immense park in the heart of the Saint Lawrence
Cruise ships headed in the direction of one or other of our ports of embarkation and disembarkation systematically traverse Saguenay/Saint-Lawrence Marine Park. The park indeed covers a large part of the Saint Lawrence estuary and nearly the entirety of Saguenay Fjord. Exclusively water-based, the park borders the regions of Saguenay/Lac-Saint-Jean, Charlevoix, North Shore/Manicouagan and the Lower Saint Lawrence. No matter whether you are a passenger on a Canada-New England sailing or transatlantic crossing, you will enjoy the opportunity to traverse the park.
A combined initiative of the governments of Canada and Québec, the park was set up in 1988 and is jointly managed by Parks Canada as part of the network of national marine conservation areas and Parks Québec. By reason geographical location, any number of stakeholders are involved in protecting and conserving the park's ecosystems. Park managers are also responsible for raising public awareness of the characteristics specific to the park, the aim being to spur continued safeguarding for generations current and future.
Vast, varied territory
The park comprises four large sectors and covers a total area of 1245 km2. Interestingly, the Saguenay Fjord sector features a deep layer of cold salt water which is overlaid with relatively warm fresh water nearer the surface. Bordered by steep cliffs on each side and impressive to behold, the fjord draws an abundance of marine fauna to its depths. At the entrance to the fjord at Tadoussac, the waters of the Saint Lawrence estuary and Saguenay River meet, and the deep Gulf current rises to the surface. As a result, marine life in the area is both diverse and plentiful. The third sector, the lower estuary, covers 30% of the park and is the most popular area of the park given the presence of marine mammals and birds which feed on the bountiful supply of small fish and plankton. Upon arrival in the middle estuary, visitors will delight in the lighthouses and countryscapes normally only pictured on postcards, not to mention belugas playfully cavorting in the water, seals basking in the sun and birds dancing in the sky.
Privileged viewing location
Cruise ship passengers can discover the park in a number of different ways. As it is made up entirely of water, the venue is ideal for viewing birds, marine mammals, plankton and various species of fish. The waters are teeming with food and particularly popular with local fauna. From the ship deck, passengers can observe a broad variety of birds, including seagulls, cormorants, Eider ducks and scoters. Some marine mammals are also certain to be seen given that there are no fewer than nine species which regularly frequent the waters of the park. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to catch sight of a beluga, harbour seal, grey seal, Greenland seal, harbour porpoise, common minke whale, fin whale, blue whale or humpback whale. As some species are at risk, including beluga, common minke whales and fin whales, it is important to observe them from a distance and carefully respect the park rules. Impressive each and every one!
For passengers interested in closer up observation of marine mammals, excursions are available from our port of call at Saguenay. The choice is yours: inflatable zodiac, kayak or small boat. You may even venture an airborne observation tour via seaplane or helicopter, and gaze out in admiration at the steep rugged cliffs which define the fjord and border the marine park.
One way or another, cruise ship passengers will revel in the privilege of discovering this impressive marine venue. It is indeed important, given that the park is a key natural resource for Québec, that visitors be able to admire and appreciate the magnificence of the natural surroundings. Hence park managers work actively to heighten awareness of the fragile, vulnerable nature of the natural milieu. Ever increasingly, visitors and locals alike are becoming aware of the impact of human activity on our natural surrounds. And they are doing their part to protect the environment to the extent possible. Their goal is to ensure that everyone is able to immortalize in photos the unforgettable memories and scenic vistas associated with their cruise on the Saint Lawrence.