River Action

A healthy St. Lawrence for generations to come

Printable version

As co-chairs for the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011–2026, we would first like to congratulate you on your concern for the future of the St. Lawrence, which has been manifested since 2006 with the Youth Statement on Water that was adopted during the Youth Summit on Water and the St. Lawrence River. The statement is a clear demonstration of your awareness of the various issues the river is facing, and your unwavering concern over the years.

The governments of Canada and Quebec have been working together for over 25 years to improve the state of the St. Lawrence ecosystem. This initiative, which began in 1988, has had several positive results. For example, pollution in the St. Lawrence has decreased, human health is protected and various animal species’ habitats have been conserved or rehabilitated. With 121 different maps, the St. Lawrence Action Plan website can help you find various nature observation, public access and water-based activity sites all along the St. Lawrence.

People, particularly young people like you, are more aware than ever of the importance of protecting our river, thanks to different initiatives like the Fondation Monique-Fitz-Back’s “Mon fleuve et moi” (“My River and Me”) contest, an educational project for youth across Quebec.

Although the St. Lawrence is in better shape now than it was 30 years ago, it is still vulnerable overall. This is confirmed in the most recent edition of the Overview of the State of the St. Lawrence, a 2014 study that provides a detailed bill of health of the river. That is why our two governments have begun implementing the integrated management of the St. Lawrence, a management approach that focuses on collaboration between communities, citizens and different organizations to conserve, protect and promote the St. Lawrence.

To make this initiative a success, youth motivation and creativity are crucial! To share your new ideas or get more concretely involved in protecting the St. Lawrence, you can contact your region’s area of prime concern (ZIP) committee and, if applicable, its Table de Concertation Régionale (regional round table), whose contact information is on the St. Lawrence Action Plan website.

Philippe Morel
Co-Chair, Canada
St. Lawrence Action Plan
Regional Director General
Environment Canada

Jacques Dupont
Co-Chair, Québec
St. Lawrence Action Plan
Assistant Deputy Minister, Water Expertise, Analysis and Environmental Assessment
Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

River Action magazine was created as a part of the St. Lawrence Action Plan. This plan is a collaborative initiative of the governments of Canada and Quebec working together with various stakeholders to conserve, restore, protect and develop the St. Lawrence River.

The second edition of this magazine consists of a revision and update of the original document produced by Environment Canada.

Contributors to the second edition:
Research and writing: Ève Harbour-Marsan
Graphic design: Valérie Brunet et Jessyca Desjardins
Validation of scientific content: Louise Bussières, Louise Champoux, Sylvain Deland, Isabelle Desjardins, Pascale Dombrowski, Isabel Julian, Yvan Lambert, Chantal Lepire, Remi Plourde, Sylvi Racine, Jean-François Rail
Coordination: Ann Dacres

Acknowledgements: We thank Marie Beauchamp, Nancy Charland, Julie Clovet-Drolet, Anie Cyr, Christopher Ladd, Jean Langlais, Heather McNabb, Jérôme Normand, Nathalie Piedboeuf, Jean-Patrick Toussaint, Sophie-Anne Tremblay and all the photographers who contributed to this publication.

Overview of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Ecosystem

A map of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and the northern United States showing the location of the Great Lakes, as well as the fluvial section, estuary and gulf of the St. Lawrence River.
Map: © Environment Canada

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence together form an ecosystem that is unique in the world in terms of its size and ecological diversity. The watershed of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence extends over 1 610 000 square kilometres and is home to thousands of plant and animal species.

Exceptional Diversity

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence are teeming with life. Starfish, pike, cattail and marine algae are equally at home in this ecosystem due to the wide-ranging diversity of conditions over the length of its course.

In fact, a multitude of factors—water temperature and salinity, the presence of tides and the type of sediments, to name just a few—affect the distribution of flora and fauna.

This ecological richness benefits everyone, including sport and commercial fishers, nature lovers, and the tourism industry.

Did you know?

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem plays a special role in our lives.
Let’s think about it...

  • It provides drinking water, food (fish and seafood) and hydroelectricity.
  • It provides a place for recreational boaters, swimmers and outdoor enthusiasts to do what they love.
  • It provides an income for those who work in various fields such as marine transport, fisheries and tourism.
  • It has inspired many artists: filmmakers, painters, photographers and writers.

How about you? What role do the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence play in your daily life?

Game: How many species of plants and animals can be found in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence?

There are more than 1.2 million plant and animal species on the planet. Scientists believe that there are millions more to discover. The most recent studies indicate that there are approximately 8.7 million species living on Earth!

What about the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence?

To find out how many species of plants and animals live in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, solve the following equations:

Great Lakes: 660 + 2870 - 30 = ?

St. Lawrence: (2100 x 12) + 1000 + (4300 - 3500) = ?


Climate change

Issue: Water contamination

Did you know that the Great Lakes are the second-largest source of freshwater in the world, after Lake Baikal in Siberia? They represent about 18% of the world’s reserves! Since this vital treasure lies in the heart of a densely populated area, it is all the more important that we safeguard the quality of our Great Lakes. Unfortunately, climate change is increasing the number of water-related diseases. Contaminated water is obviously not good for drinking, but it can also be a health hazard for swimming and a cause for beach closures.

Connections between the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence are closely connected. The five lakes follow a step-like configuration; Lake Superior has the highest altitude (183 m above sea level) and Lake Ontario, the lowest (74 m above sea level). Naturally, the water follows the slope and flows from the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence and into the Atlantic Ocean, carrying along with it living organisms but also many pollutants.

A map of the five Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Map: © Environment Canada

Length of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence: 3 260 km

Lakes Length
Maximum depth
(km cubed)
Superior 563 257 406 12 100
Michigan 494 190 282 4 920
Huron 332 245 229 3 580
Erie 388 92 84 484
Ontario 311 85 244 1 640

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem and other rivers of the world

Did you know?

The Great Lakes are so vast they can be seen from the moon. They cover almost half of the land area of Quebec!

Length (km)

  1. 1st - Nil (6 670 km)
  2. 2nd - Amazon (6 570 km)
  3. ...
  4. 17th - Great Lakes and St. Lawrence (3 260 km)

Average annual flow (m³/s)

  1. 1st - Amazon (175 000 m³/s)
  2. 2nd - Zaire (39 200 m³/s)
  3. ...
  4. 15th - St. Lawrence (12 600 m³/s*)

* 12 600 m3/s, that’s enough to fill 5½ Olympic-sized swimming pools in one second!

How the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence were formed

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence were formed during the last ice age, 20 000 years ago, at a time when glaciation was at its peak. Almost all of  Canada lay beneath enormous ice sheets 1 to 3 km thick.

An illustrated map of North America and Greenland as they appeared about 20 000 years ago, in which nearly all of Canada and the northern United States is covered in glaciers.
Illustration: Jacques Goldstyn

The formation of the Great Lakes

Like bulldozers, as the glaciers retreated they carved out giant basins in the earth. Then, as the climate warmed, the ice began to melt and fill these basins. The Great Lakes were born.

An illustrated map of North America and Greenland, as they appeared about 11 000 years ago, in which nearly all territory north of the Great Lakes is covered under the retreating glaciers.
Illustration: Jacques Goldstyn

The formation of the St. Lawrence

Melting ice sheets 11 000 years ago caused the level of the Atlantic Ocean to rise. Salt water flooded the land, forming the Champlain Sea (between Ottawa and Quebec City) and the Goldthwait Sea (downstream from Quebec City). Over time, the continent gradually rebounded as it escaped the weight of the ice. The result: the salt water no longer extended beyond Quebec City, and the Champlain Sea became a lake, known as Lake Lampsilis. The level of Lake Lampsilis dropped 5 000 years ago, and the lake slowly became a river, the St. Lawrence.

An illustrated current map of North America and Greenland, showing that today Greenland is the only place with significant glaciers.
Illustration: Jacques Goldstyn

Game: Complete the following sentence:

The Great Lakes contain ______ % of the planet’s supply of fresh surface water, only 1% of which is renewable. To find the answer, find all of the pairs of numbers that add up to 60 and mark them with an X. The number that remains is the answer.

22, 4, 38, 30, 56, 5, 28, 20, 10, 13, 50, 32, 55, 37, 21, 30, 18, 23, 47, 39

Climate change, from past to present

Even today, the climate continues to have a strong influence on this ecosystem. In recent years, global warming has caused water levels in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence upstream of Quebec City to drop, among other effects. This phenomenon will likely harm wetlands and adversely affect navigation and the drinking water supply. In the estuary and Gulf, however, rising water levels are eating away at riverbanks and threatening shoreline roads, forests and communities.

Game: How did the St. Lawrence get its name?

On August 10, 1535, Jacques Cartier named a cove located near today’s Havre-Saint-Pierre “Bay Saint Laurens,” because it was the feast day of Saint Lawrence. A few years later, translators thought that the name “St. Lawrence” applied to the entire Gulf. Then, in 1613, the cartographer Samuel de Champlain extended the name to include the entire river system. Long before Cartier, though, the Aboriginal people knew the river as Magtogoek.

To find out the meaning of this word, use the secret code below:

  • A = 1
  • B = 2
  • C = 3
  • D = 4
  • E = 5
  • F = 6
  • G = 7
  • H = 8
  • I = 9
  • J = 10
  • K = 11
  • L = 12
  • M = 13
  • N = 14
  • O = 15
  • P = 16
  • Q = 17
  • R = 18
  • S = 19
  • T = 20
  • U = 21
  • V = 22
  • W = 23
  • X = 24
  • Y = 25
  • Z = 26

20, 8, 5 | 16, 1, 20, 8.
Answer: ________________________________________

20, 8, 1, 20 | 23, 1, 12, 11, 19.
Answer: ________________________________________


Treasures to cherish

The Northern Map Turtle

This animal’s name refers to the pale yellow designs adorning its shell that resemble the lines on a map. These turtles are generally active at night, spending the better part of the day lying on rocks and sleeping in the sun. They are very shy and dive into the water at the first sign of danger. They can be found in the lakes and rivers of the United States and the southern regions of Quebec and Ontario.

A photo of a Northern Map Turtle, so-called because of the yellow or orange lines—said to resemble the contour lines on a map—on its dark olive-coloured carapace. It also has an intricate pattern of bright yellow lines on its head and feet.
Photo: © Ryan M. Bolton

Food for thought!

You might say that the St. Lawrence is both young and old… It is young because it was formed during the last ice age.

It is old because it is situated on Logan’s Line, an ancient fault line approximately 450 million years old.

Today, First Nations people continue to have a strong presence all along the St. Lawrence.

A little bit of history...

The Aboriginal people were the first to benefit from the abundant resources of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence: water, game, fish and marine mammals.

These waters were also vital transportation corridors facilitating the trade in furs, corn flour, dried fruit and medicine.

A map of the 17 administrative areas of the province of Quebec, indicating the locations of the 11 First Nations and Inuit communities.
Map: Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, gouvernement du Québec

Why should humanity preserve biodiversity?

The greater the variety of living organisms, the better our chances of having clean air and water, developing new crops, and finding organisms that can fight pests or yield ingredients for new medicines. Unfortunately, there exist many threats to biodiversity, especially pollution, habitat degradation, the introduction of exotic species, climate change and overconsumption of resources.

Climate change

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for global warming, have increased considerably because of human activity. In the Northern Hemisphere, the period between 1983 and 2012 has probably been the hottest in 1400 years. Each of these three decades was hotter than the one before it! By 2050, the temperature of southern Quebec is expected to be even 2 to 3.2 °C warmer. This increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface is already causing accelerated melting of the glaciers and warming of the oceans. These processes are causing the sea level to rise. Flooding, intense precipitation and droughts are already being observed more frequently around the world. These impacts are jeopardizing our health and safety. We will increasingly have to adapt our lifestyle to the upheavals caused by climate change in the balance of our society, our environment and our economy.

Double-crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant can be found in saltwater, brackish water and freshwater areas of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem. After a period of decline due to the devastating effects of pollution, the population started to rise in the 1980s. The population has rebounded to such an extent that today the high density of a few colonies could become problematic. In Lake Saint-Pierre, the high number of cormorants is a threat to fish such as the perch.

A photo of the Double-crested Cormorant perched on an isolated branch. It is a large seabird, dark in coloration, with a long neck and stocky body. Its wingspan can reach over a metre, and it has a medium-sized hooked bill, yellow in colour.
Photo: John Mosesso Jr.

Intruders in the ecosystem: invasive alien species

Over the past 200 years, it is estimated that approximately 163 invasive alien species (primarily plants) have invaded the Great Lakes. Of this number, at least 85 species have reached the St. Lawrence through the St. Lawrence seaway system. They invade our river and threaten native species and species at risk. Climate change is also altering the delicate balance of habitats, increasing the vulnerability of native species and facilitating the invasion of alien species.

A large part of a region’s economy is based on it’s natural resources, both animal and vegetable, which we exploit. When an invasive species moves into an ecosystem the local agriculture, forestry and fishery trades can be significantly impacted. Even infrastructure, like bridges and water purification facilities, can be negatively impacted, leading to further costs to the municipalities to repair damages, and prevent future damages. For small communities this cost can be astronomical. Also, the presence of invasive alien species in a lake, for example, can diminish shoreline property values and even close the lake to recreational activities. The can also be vectors for illnesses and parasites.

Fishhook Water Flea

An illustration of the Spiny Water Flea, identifiable by its large bulbous egg brood pouch and the spines on its tail.
Illustration: Odélie Bernard-Labelle © Environment Canada

Spiny Water Flea

An illustration of the Fishhook Water Flea, identifiable by its elongated egg brood pouch, and the distinctive loop at the end of its spiny tail.
Illustration: Odélie Bernard-Labelle © Environment Canada
  • Location: At the gates of Quebec and the Great Lakes
  • Origin: Pontocaspian region
  • Physical description: Less than 1.5 cm in length, with a long tail that accounts for 60% (Spiny Water Flea) to 80% (Fishhook Water Flea) of it’s size.
  • Characteristics: The females can reproduce asexually and create a colony on their own.
  • Impacts: Attaches itself to fishing lines and nets, and upsets the food chain balance because it consumes large quantities of zooplankton.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP), call 1-877-346-6763

Asian carp

A photo of a Grass Carp, which is a very large fish. This individual is silvery yellow in colour with large, slightly outlined scales on its body. It has a scaleless head.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Archive, bugwood.org
Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Common Sucker and Grass Carp
  • Location: At the gates of Quebec and the Great Lakes
  • Origin: Asia
  • Physical description: Large, up to two metres in length, and weighing up to 50 kg.
  • Characteristics: Due to its size, it has very few predators. The Silver Carp can jump as high as one metre and can seriously injure recreational boaters.
  • Impacts: Can eat up to 20% of its body weight and disrupt the aquatic food web balance and the habitat of other fish species. This can have irreversible impacts on the economy and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia

A photo of a fish infected with viral hemorrhagic septicemia. It displays visible symptoms, namely bulging eyes and bleeding around the eyes.
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey
  • Location: Great Lakes, at the gates of Quebec
  • Origin: N/A
  • Physical description: Infected fish may have bulging eyes and bleeding around their eyes and at the base of their fins.
  • Characteristics: Infectious disease caused by a virus. No danger to humans. Affects more than 65 fish species.
  • Impacts: The massive kill of native fish is extremely costly to the fishing industry.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

Overview of the fluvial section

A map of the fluvial section of the St. Lawrence, which extends from Cornwall, Ontario to the eastern edge of Lac Saint-Pierre in Quebec.
Map: © Environment Canada

In the fluvial section, calm waters are interspersed with areas of turbulent water. The river widens in places to form large, shallow lakes called fluvial lakes (Lake Saint-François, Lake Saint-Louis and Lake Saint-Pierre); elsewhere, it flows into narrow passages to form rapids.

Physical characteristics

  • Length: 400 km
  • Width: 14 km
  • Maximum depth: 12 m
  • Presence of tides: no
  • Salinity: fresh water

In the fluvial section, the river is made up of a dozen water masses that come from the Great Lakes and the tributaries . These water masses flow alongside one another because the strong flow of the main water mass, the Great Lakes water mass, pushes the others to the edges of the river. These different water masses are distinguished by their distinct characteristics in terms of colour, temperature, etc. Once they reach the estuary, though, the water masses are mixed together by the tide.

Main uses

There are very few beaches on Lake Saint-Pierre because the water contains too much bacteria to allow swimming in many areas.

What are the risks of swimming in water of poor quality?

The risks include gastroenteritis as well as skin, eye and ear infections. However, there are areas where the water is clean enough for swimming, specifically at Lake Saint-François, Cap-Saint-Jacques and the Lake of Two Mountains, in Oka.

For more information on water quality in the Montréal area, visit the website of the Réseau de suivi du milieu aquatique at: rsma.qc.ca (in French only)

Many riverside communities draw their drinking water from the river proper. The freshwater portion of the St. Lawrence supplies drinking water to more than three million Quebec residents! Every day, we draw more than two billion litres of water from the river. Before it is fit to drink, bacteria and impurities must first be removed at a filtration plant.

Main uses

The majority of freshwater commercial fishers ply the waters of Lake Saint-Pierre. They catch mainly Brown Bullhead, Yellow Perch, eel and Lake Sturgeon.

Northern Pike, perch, Walleye and bass are favoured by anglers. Would you eat fish from the St. Lawrence River? Before doing so, consult the freshwater sport fishing guide, the Guide de consommation du poisson de pêche sportive en eau douce. It indicates how often certain fish can be eaten based on the species and size. Species like Walleye that eat other fish are more contaminated than those that eat insects, due to the process of biomagnification.

Game: Try your hand at these freshwater fish riddles

The first syllable of my name encloses, divides, supports or protects; the second is something we all need to see. Who am I?

This photo presents a ventrolateral view of an elongated, golden-coloured fish. Its flanks have indistinct darker bands and are lighter than its back. Its belly is white.
Photo: © Environment Canada


I can be a fish or a musical instrument, depending on the length of the vowel. Who am I?

A photo of a dark brownish-olive-coloured fish with a dorsal fin that sports a section with spikes and a section with soft rays. This lateral view of the fish shows the darker spots on its back and sides.
Photo: © Environment Canada



Commercial shipping

A photo of the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam. We can clearly see the Canadian flag flying and a work crew on the dam. Hydro transmission towers and power lines appear in the background.
Photo: CEEDUB13, cc by 2.0, or flickr

Moses-Saunders Power Dam at 1 km in length

The St. Lawrence connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean in a near-perfect straight line. This waterway is 3700 km long and leads to the heart of North America, home to approximately 100 million people.

Managing water levels

Water levels in rivers and lakes can vary a great deal depending on weather conditions.

Riverfront property owners know this only too well! Since 1963, dams have been used to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, upstream of Lake Saint-Pierre. The largest of these, the Moses-Saunders dam, spans the river between Cornwall, Ontario, and Massena, New York.

The organization that manages water levels both upstream and downstream of Lake Ontario is the International Joint Commission or IJC; it is composed of Canadian, American and First Nations representatives.

The IJC has a difficult job: reconciling the (often divergent) needs of boaters, hydroelectricity producers and riverside residents.

Montréal is the largest container port in Canada. More than one million containers are handled here each year!


For every 30-cm drop in water level, container ships must reduce their loads by approximately 5%. To compensate, they must make more trips, which increases the impact of navigation on the river and on shoreline erosion. Plus, in shallower water, eddies created by ships stir up contaminated sediment long buried in mud, thus degrading water quality.

GAME : Can you identify these three vessels by studying their silhouettes and reading the clues?

Oil Tanker
Slanted bow, bridge at the centre of the deck

Ocean-Going Freighter
Slanted bow, cargo boom on the deck

Straight bow, flat deck, pilothouse in front

An illustration of a fairly long but narrow ship with the bridge in the bow and a very flat deck with cargo hatches.
Illustration: Lucie Benoit

A) Answer: ________________________________________

An illustration of a very large ship with cranes on its deck and a large pilothouse towards the stern.
Illustration: Lucie Benoit

B) Answer: ________________________________________

An illustration of a very large ship with a flat deck. Its navigation is controlled by the pilothouse amidship.
Illustration: Lucie Benoit

C) Answer: ________________________________________


In 2001, UNESCO named Lake Saint-Pierre a “World Biosphere Reserve” owing to its unique characteristics. This vast wetland has significant ecological value since it is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

On Grande Île, for example, there are more than 1000 Great Blue Heron nests. That is the largest heronry in Quebec—and probably the world!

Lake Saint-Pierre provides both feeding and breeding grounds for numerous species of animals; it is a first-rate pantry and nursery! As well as controlling floods, its marshes oxygenate and purify the water. They are the river’s lungs and kidneys.

Biosphere reserve

A biosphere reserve is a pilot area that attempts to strike a balance between development and biodiversity conservation where people, businesses and governments are committed to living in harmony with nature. Designated by UNESCO, these areas are of great ecological importance and allow for the development of economic activities that are sustainable, respectful of the environment and promote biodiversity. Sixteen of the approximately 600 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves are located in Canada.

Treasures to cherish

The Great Blue Heron

A photo of a Great Blue Heron wading in shallow water. This large bird is distinguishable by its slate-blue coloration, sinuous neck, large yellowish beak and long legs, and the black plumes on its crown.
Photo: Michel Leblond @ lequebecenimage, CCDMD

Great Blue Herons are the largest wading birds in Canada. Perched high on legs that can measure up to 60 cm long, they scan the marshes in search of food. Patient, they can remain motionless for several minutes waiting for a fish to cross their path. When a fish finally appears, the Great Blue Heron plunges its beak into the water with a quick thrust of its long neck to seize its prey. Herons live in pairs, and both parents take turns looking after the chicks.

The Pickerelweed

This image of the Pickerelweed, a native plant, illustrates the accompanying description.
Photo: Caroline Savage © Environment Canada

The Pickerelweed is a hardy perennial. It is easily recognized by its heart-shaped leaves and purple flowers that grow together in a spike at the end of a long stem. It grows in the water and can be found in large numbers in marshes and wetlands. This plant can serve as a hiding place for fish like pike, which slides its body between the plant’s stems and submerged leaves.

The Arrowhead

This image of the Arrowhead, a native plant, illustrates the accompanying description.
Photo: Caroline Savage © Environment Canada

This plant has large arrow-shaped leaves and grows in very shallow water, creating dense strips of vegetation. Its flower is composed of three white petals. Arrowheads are a favourite food of beavers and muskrats, who consume the entire plant. Humans can also eat the roots of the arrowhead as they would with potatoes.

The Canada Goose

A photo of two Canada Geese amid aquatic plants in a waterway. The Canada Goose is distinguishable by its black head and neck, white chinstrap, and brown body.
Photo: Jean Rodrigue © Environment Canada

During the spring and fall migration, geese travel in groups by the hundreds and thousands. In flight, they assume long, ragged V-formations that allow them to conserve their strength. Geese can cover 1000 km in just one day in this way. Canada Geese are loyal, staying with the same mates throughout their lives and returning to the same nesting sites every year.

Game: Identify this place

The St. Lawrence River has the largest rapids in eastern North America.

To find out the name of these rapids, cross out the letters that appear more than once in the grid. Then put the remaining letters in the right order.

L, k, E, K, B, P, Y, V, O, D, V, O, A, B, N, G, J, I, J, P, Y, V, S, K, C, B, G, S, D, H.

Answer: ________________________________________


Invasive alien species

Red-eared Slider Turtle

A photo of the Red-eared Slider, a common pet turtle that is popular due to the bright green coloration of its carapace when young that darkens with age, and bright red spot behind its eyes. Its plastron (underbelly) is yellow and its skin is striped yellow and green.
Photo: Joy Viola, Northeastern University, bugwood.org
  • Location: Fresh waters of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem
  • Origin: United States
  • Physical description: Reddish spot behind its eyes and yellow lines on its skin.
  • Characteristics: Freshwater reptile and cold-blooded animal. Very tolerant and adapts easily.
  • Impacts: Competes with and can be aggressive with native species when vying with them for the same egg-laying sites, feeding grounds or the same spot to bask in the sun.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing someone releasing a pet turtle.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. Atlas des amphibien reptile du Québec (AARQ) aarq@ecomuseum.ca
    MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

European Water Chestnut

A photo of a European Water Chestnut corm. This water chestnut seed is triangular-shaped, light greenish-brown in colour, and bears sharp, barbed spines.
Photo: Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS Plants Database
  • Location: Fresh waters of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem. It requires shallow aquatic environments with weak currents; for example, Rivière du Sud, the Richelieu and Ottawa rivers, and Lake of Two Mountains.
  • Origin: Asia, Europe, Africa
  • Physical description: Forms a mat on the surface of the water. Triangular leaves.
  • Characteristics: Plant species of great concern.
  • Impacts: Deprives other aquatic organisms of light and oxygen. It can out-compete native plants. Restricts access to some waterways and hinders fishing. Water chestnut spines on the riverbed can injure animals and swimmers.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.

Round Goby

A photo of the Round Goby. This invasive fish is spotted, brownish-olive in colour, has a rounded snout, and is distinguishable by a black spot on the first dorsal fin.
Photo: Peter van der Sluijs,cc-by-sa-3.0, on Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Fresh waters of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem
  • Origin: Pontocaspian region and Asia
  • Physical description: Black spot on its dorsal fin with fused pectoral fins.
  • Characteristics: May carry viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and can kill other fish. Aggressive and territorial, it eats the eggs and young of indigenous species, may also feed on insects and plants.
  • Impacts: Reduces stocks of local fish and is detrimental to fishery quality.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

Climate change

Issue: Marine transport

Did you know that climate change also affects your sneakers? It’s true! They travelled on a ship before reaching the store where you bought them. For ships to sail freely, the St. Lawrence River needs to be at least deep enough so that the hull does not scrape the bottom! To counteract drops in the water level, structures such as dikes , dams and locks are used to control water levels on command. Dredging is also a solution that is currently in use, but this method has adverse effects on the environment because it brings contaminants found in the sediment to the surface and lowers the water level on both sides of the channel.

Environmental pressures

The creation of Notre-Dame and Sainte-Hélène islands for Expo 67 adversely affected the ability of American Shad, Striped Bass and Atlantic Sturgeon to reproduce.

The development of the St. Lawrence seaway and the construction of dams led to the degradation of the habitats of numerous species of fish.

The banks of the St. Lawrence are densely populated and very industrialized. The fluvial section is located in the most densely populated area of Quebec; 45% of Quebec’s population lives in the Montréal region.

The large agricultural zones on both shores of the river are major sources of pollution.

Large sections of the shoreline have been denaturalized by the construction of roads, ports and houses. Vast areas have also been eroded by waves caused by the passage of ships. These waves are called “wake waves.”

To prevent these waves from eating away at the banks, ship speed is regulated, and low protective retaining walls made of stone or concrete are erected; better yet, the banks are restored by revegetating them.

Overview of the Estuary

Physical characteristics

  • Length: 550 km
  • Maximum width: 60 km (downstream from Baie-Comeau)
  • Presence of tides: Yes
  • salinity: fresh water (upstream of Île d’Orléans),
    brackish water (between Île d’Orléans and La Pocatière),
    and salt water (downstream of La Pocatière)
A map of the St. Lawrence estuary, from the eastern edge of Lake Saint-Pierre to the eastern edge of Baie-Comeau, Quebec.
Map: © Environment Canada

In the estuary, the tide begins to make its presence known. Every day, the water level rises and falls. The tide wave begins in the Atlantic Ocean and travels from the gulf to Lake Saint-Pierre. Between Batiscan and the Gulf, the rising tide is strong enough to reverse the river’s direction of flow.

Environmental pressures

Water quality in the estuary is generally good, and it improves significantly downstream of Île d’Orléans. Nonetheless, it can be more polluted near certain localities.

Some human activities have disturbed the natural environment. For example, the construction of the Dufferin-Montmorency Highway over the Beauport flats destroyed a prime habitat for plants and birds. In the 1980s, construction of aboiteaux near Kamouraska dried up some 30-odd km of the vast salt marshes bordering the river. The land was converted to rich farmland.

Upstream of Quebec City, farmland stretches along both sides of the river. The population density is low to moderate. Downstream, the differences between the two shores become apparent. The southern shore is more populous, and there are many small towns and villages. The northern shore is more sparsely populated, restricted to a narrow coastal stretch of land hemmed in by mountains and forests.

Game: Decipher the secret code:

The name “Quebec” comes from the Algonquin word Kebec.

To find out what this word means, decipher the code by replacing each letter with the one that precedes it in the alphabet.


Answer: ________________________________________


Main uses

There is intensive ship traffic in the estuary. All commercial vessels travelling between Les Escoumins and Montréal must take on a trained local pilot, because this is an especially hazardous stretch of the St. Lawrence.

This precautionary measure ensures vessel safety and protects the environment from potential accidents. In winter, icebreakers keep the ship channel open.

Swimming is a popular activity in some areas, particularly Saint-Siméon, Baie-Comeau, Sainte-Luce-sur-Mer and Tadoussac.

Game: Complete the following sentence:

About ____________ million Quebecers get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence.

To get the answer, find all the pairs of numbers with a product of 500 and mark them with an X. The leftover number is the answer.

25, 2, 10, 3, 1, 500, 5, 50, 250, 20, 100

Game: Riddle

Every year, about 15 Beluga Whales are found dead on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Scientists examine them to determine the cause of death.

The carcasses contain several cancer- and infection-causing chemicals, including the insecticide mirex. The strange thing is, this product has never been used in the areas surrounding the St. Lawrence.

A photo of a group of five adult Belugas, with parts of their backs clearly visible above the water. Belugas are relatively small whales, measuring up to 5.5 metres, and are known for the absence of a dorsal fin and their white coloration at maturity.
Photo: © Corel Corporation

So how did the Belugas become contaminated by mirex?

To solve this mystery, read the following clues and use your head!

  • Mirex was used around Lake Ontario until the mid-1970s.
  • Belugas eat many species of fish (Capelin, Herring, Eel, Sand, Lance, Salmon), marine worms, shellfish and octopus.
  • Eels are migratory fish.

Answer: ________________________________________


There is an underwater valley at the bottom of the St. Lawrence that stretches from Tadoussac to the Atlantic Ocean. It is called the Laurentian Channel. Near Tadoussac, the riverbed falls away, dropping from 25 to 340 metres in depth.

This underwater “wall” causes an upwelling of icy-cold, nutrient-rich sea water.

These nutrients act as a fertilizer and, where there is sunlight, they spur the growth of microscopic algae. These plants feed multitudes of fish, seabirds and cetaceans.

Main uses

Every year, about 300 000 people go on whale-watching cruises. We are spoiled—the St. Lawrence is one of the best places in the world to see cetaceans!

Treasures to cherish

The Greater Snow Goose

A photo of the Greater Snow Goose, distinguishable by its white plumage and pink-tinged bill and feet.
Photo: Josée Lefebvre, GON

This migratory bird travels more than 8000 km every year. The Greater Snow Goose, or white goose, spends the winter in the coastal marshes from New Jersey to South Carolina. By March or April, it is time to leave. The geese gather in groups to travel back to their breeding grounds on Baffin Island and Bylot Island, north of the Arctic Circle. They travel 4000 km and make only one real stop: the shores of the St. Lawrence. At Cap Tourmente, near Quebec City, tens of thousands of Greater Snow Geese gather to rest during their spring and fall migrations.

Game: Crossword

Fill in the blanks using the clues below. All the words relate to the whales of the St. Lawrence.

1) The ____ Whale has long black and white pectoral fins. (8 letters)

2) The other name for the Killer Whale is ____ . (4 letters)

3) The Harbour _____ is the smallest cetacean that lives in the St. Lawrence. It measures between 1.5 and 2 m in length. (8 letters)

4) Many whales do not have teeth. Their _____ filters the seawater and allows them to feed. (6 letters)

5) The ______ is a small white whale that often travels in pods. (6 letters)

6) Whales have a thick layer of _____ that protects them from the cold. (7 letters)

7) When whales expel hot, moist air, we say they are ______. (7 letters)

8) The largest animal that has ever lived on Earth is the _____ Whale. (4 letters)

9) ___________ is a village on Quebec’s North Shore is the starting point for many whale-watching excursions. (9 letters)

10) The cetacean seen most often during whale-watching cruises on the St. Lawrence is the ____ Whale. (3 letters)


Climate change

Issue: Drinking water

Did you know that nearly half of Quebecers get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence River? The Earth’s hydrosphere is made up of 97.5% salt water and only 2.5% fresh water, 70% of which is trapped in glaciers. Because of rising temperatures, large sources of drinking water are evaporating, which reduces the amount available for consumption. One of the major challenges facing future generations is drinking water management. With the growing population and the increasing scarcity of water, a new balance will have to be established between supply and demand for this precious water, which is vital to human survival.

Invasive alien species

Chinese Mitten Crab

A photo of the Chinese Mitten Crab, distinguishable by its hairy claws that resemble mittens. When the crabs are mature, their carapace is greenish-brown in colour and about the size of the palm of a hand.
Photo: Christian Fischer cc-by-sa-3.0, on Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem
  • Origin: Yellow Sea, between China and Korea
  • Physical description: Dense hair on its claws
  • Characteristics: Catadromous species, one of the ten most undesirable invasive alien species
  • Impacts: Digs tunnels in riverbanks leading to shoreline erosion.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

Common Reed

A photo of a stand of Common Reeds with mountains in the background. This large perennial grass is distinguishable by its size (2 to 6 metres tall) and the feathery flowers that are purple to golden in this image.
Photo: Mandy Tu, The Nature Conservancy, bugwood.org
  • Location: wetlands and along highways of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem
  • Origin: Eurasia
  • Physical description: Thin stem several metres high, ending in a silvery plume.
  • Characteristics: High reproductive capacity.
  • Impacts: Dense colonies deprive other plants of light. Its rhizomes change the soil’s organic composition, restrict the flow of irrigation water and dry up wetlands.

Zebra and Quagga mussels

A photo of a Zebra Mussel. As this bivalve’s name implies, it is distinguishable by the zigzag striped pattern on its shell. It is 2 to 4 centimetres long.
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey
A photo of the Quagga Mussel, which is very similar in size and shape to the Zebra Mussel. Its distinguishing feature is its stripes that fade out towards the hinge on the bivalves’ shells. It is 2 to 3 centimetres long.
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey
  • Location: Fresh waters of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence ecosystem
  • Origin: Pontocaspian region
  • Physical description: Bivalve mollusc of varying colours and shapes.
  • Characteristics: Great capacity for filtering suspended particles and phytoplankton. Attaches itself to surfaces and infrastructure, nearly impossible to dislodge.
  • Impacts: Increases water transparency and the proliferation of aquatic plants. However, it obstructs hydraulic systems such as drinking water intakes.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. MFFP, call 1-877-346-6763

Game: Did you know?

Because of climate change, sea water is infiltrating even further into the St. Lawrence. If this trend continues, within the next 50 years, certain municipalities will no longer be able to use the river water as its source of drinking water because it will have become too salty.

Identify the cities below. Which two cities risk losing the St. Lawrence as their source of drinking water?

A photo of the Biosphère, a geodesic sphere that is a landmark for this international city. The Concorde and Victoria bridges can be seen in the background.
Photo: © Vista Photo


A photo of the Chateau Frontenac, one of many historic buildings that make this city famous. The ferry terminal on the St. Lawrence River can be seen in the foreground.
Photo: © Istock.com/VLADONE


A photo of the Laviolette Bridge, an arch bridge across the St. Lawrence River.
Photo: © Istock.com/TONY TREMBLAY


A photo of a riverfront municipality taken in winter. We can see Mont-Sainte-Anne in the distance across the St. Lawrence River.
Photo: © Claude Boucher. GDFL or cc by-sa 3.0. on Wikimedia Commons



Game: Picture riddle

This edible plant grows in salt marshes. Its leaves can be eaten raw, in a salad or as a side vegetable. What is its name? To find out, solve this riddle.

The first syllable of my name is something you drink from.

The second syllable of my name sounds like a small, hard and contagious skin bump.

Answer: ________________________________________

A photo showing a close-up of a patch of Glassworts. These succulent herbs grow fairly close to the ground, rarely reaching 30 centimetres. Their jointed stems, erect branches and very small scale-like leaves are green in colour, turning red as autumn approaches.
Photo: O. Penard - Fonds APNO

Nomadic or sedentary?

At the beginning of the 17th century, the majority of First Nations in Quebec lived a nomadic lifestyle. Because their survival depended on fishing, hunting and gathering, they had to move with the seasons.

The Iroquois were more sedentary. They lived in villages along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence as far as Quebec City. They grew corn, beans and squash but also fished and hunted.

As they exhausted the resources in a particular area, they would migrate to another area to start again.

Main uses

Commercial fishing

Commercial fisheries target species like eel, smelt, shrimp and Snow Crab as well as groundfish like cod, halibut and plaice (or flounder).

Sport fishing

This popular pastime is also practised in winter, when the town of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade welcomes ice fishers seeking “tommycod” (Atlantic Tomcod).

Overview of the gulf

Map of the gulf.

Beyond Pointe-des-Monts, the St. Lawrence becomes so wide that the opposite shore cannot be seen. This is the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean.

Here, boaters must pay careful attention to the moods of the gulf because of strong drift currents. Several factors affect the formation of drift currents, including the wind, the underwater topography, the configuration of the coastline, and the climate. Sound knowledge of currents is extremely useful when rescuing a ship in distress or protecting the shoreline from a toxic spill.

Physical characteristics

  • Length: 650 km (from Pointe-des-Monts to the Cabot Strait)
  • Width: 800 km (from Shediac to the Strait of Belle Isle)
  • Presence of tides: yes
  • Salinity: salt water (3.2% at the surface)
  • Tides: strong (4 to 6 m)

Main uses

Swimming is a popular activity, especially in the Gaspésie, Îles de la Madeleine and Côte-Nord regions. That is, if the cold does not bother you too much. The gulf’s warmest waters reach 22°C in Chaleur Bay, compared with 28°C in Florida.

The fishing industry is vital to the economy of the Côte-Nord, Gaspésie and the Îles de la Madeleine. The shellfish caught most often are Snow Crab, Northern Shrimp and lobster. The most commonly caught fish species are cod, Greenland Halibut (turbot), Atlantic Halibut, American Plaice, herring and mackerel.

Food for thought

“Matane shrimp” do not come from Matane. Most are caught along the Quebec North Shore and out at sea off the Gaspé Peninsula.

Where did they get their name?

Quebec’s first shrimp processing plant was founded in Matane.

Treasures to cherish

The Atlantic Puffin

The puffin has been the symbol of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador since 1992. Its large coloured beak has earned it the nickname “sea parrot.”

Puffins are impressive divers and swimmers who use their wings to propel themselves through the water in pursuit of small fish to eat. They nest in dense colonies on cliffs and places inaccessible to land predators.

A photo of two nesting Atlantic Puffins, most renowned for their large red, yellow and black beaks that fade after mating season. They have a black crown and back, whitish cheeks and a white chest and underbelly with contrasting orange legs and feet.
Photo: Jean-François Rail © Environment Canada

Climate change

Issue: Shoreline erosion

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the water level, tides, ice, winds, waves, rain, snow, freezing, thawing, and more frequent and more intense storms are all factors that increase coastal erosion. In addition to the environmental impacts of erosion, authorities are closely monitoring this process because it can sometimes have major, unexpected and dangerous consequences in terms of public safety. Homes, highways and other infrastructure and buildings are very vulnerable to erosion. In the Îles de la Madeleine, 70% of the coastlines are at risk. Imagine driving along in your car and suddenly seeing the road in front of you being swept away by the sea!

Game: Examine the map and draw an arrow to the location of the following sites:

Mingan archipelago, Anticosti Island, Îles de la Madeleine, Chaleur Bay, Percé Rock.

A map outlining the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the islands therein. The names have been removed. Can you remember them from a previous map?

Invasive alien species

Dead Man’s Fingers or Oyster Thief

This image is one of coastal erosion. One can see how much of the supporting dirt and rock has been removed by continuous mechanical weathering: the actions of wind, rain and waves.
Photo: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez (Lmbuga Commons). on Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Up to a depth of 18 m in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Origin: Japan
  • Physical description: Greenish colour and Y-shaped ends to the stems
  • Characteristics: Attaches itself to rocks, reefs, infrastructure and other algae. Clings to molluscs and crustaceans, and makes them vulnerable to predators, carries oysters out to sea
  • Impacts: Harms commercial mollusc and crustacean fisheries
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. Contact the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) office near you Quebec: 418-775-0682 info@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Green Crab or Shore Crab

A photo of a Green Crab. Its carapace measures about 90 millimetres in width. This one sports a green coloration, but individuals may vary from green to yellow and orange in colouring.
Photo: Flyingdream, domaine public, on Wikimeda Commons
  • Location: Shallow saltwaters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Origin: Northern Europe and Africa
  • Physical description: Greenish colour
  • Characteristics: Adapts very well to our ecosystems
  • Impacts: Attacks molluscs and eel catches, damaging the mariculture industry and the commercial eel fishery
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. Contact the DFO office near you Quebec: 418-775-0682 info@dfo-mpo.gc.ca


A photo of a Golden Star Tunicate. This colony is red in colour with yellow stars. This close-up shows several round clusters of zooids (asexually produced individuals of a compound organism) that each have a tiny individual incurrent siphon and one shared central excurrent siphon that forms the star shape.
Photo: Parent Géry, domaine public, on Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Atlantic coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Origin: Various origins; introduced through commercial vessel biofouling
  • Physical description: Skin looks gelatinous and crusted, takes on different shapes
  • Characteristics: Anchors itself to underwater surfaces: rocky reefs, boat hulls, ropes and fish farm installations (marine aquaculture ).
  • Impacts: Threatens aquaculture and increases operating costs of the mollusc industry.
  • Actions:
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.
    Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.
    Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.
  • Icône – Symbole d’un porte-voix. Contact the DFO office near you Quebec: 418-775-0682 info@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Game: Find the odd one out!

Some algae like Irish moss contain gelatinous substances (agar, alginate, carageenan, etc.). Once they are extracted, these substances are added to various products as a thickener.

Circle the product that rarely contains algal extracts:

  • Ice cream
  • Cosmetics
  • Salad dressing
  • Printing ink
  • Jam
  • Paint
  • Bread
  • Film

At home, look at the list of ingredients on various food or cleaning products. Maybe you will find more.

Main uses

stocks of groundfish like cod, redfish, plaice and halibut have declined drastically since the late 1980s. Though primarily due to overfishing, this decrease has been aggravated by natural factors such as predation by seals and the temperature drop in the Atlantic Ocean. Their failure to recover in that time is related mainly to fishing and possibly to predation by seals in the case of certain species and regions. Cod, American Plaice and redfish are being studied for classification as species at risk, whereas biomass levels of Atlantic Halibut are currently much higher than they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

Environmental pressures

The gulf coast is sparsely populated, especially on the northern shore. The Gaspé Peninsula is a mainly rural environment. Because the gulf receives very little agricultural, municipal or industrial discharges , the water quality is generally good.

Treasures to cherish

Wild rye

A photo of a stand of Wild Rye, a perennial tall grass with bluish-green blades and yellow flowering spikes.
Photo: Guy Létourneau © Environment Canada

Wild rye can be found on both shores of the St. Lawrence from Montmagny to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the genus Elymus, wild rye helps to stabilize sand dunes along the shoreline. It tolerates dry soils well and thrives on sea spray. Its blue-green leaves are characteristically tipped by a large, pale yellow spike.

The Northern Gannet

A photo of a Northern Gannet colony with one individual in the forefront. It is a large seabird with a wingspan of up to 180 centimetres, with white plumage, a light golden head, and dark wingtips. It has a long stout beak and light blue eyes surrounded by bare black skin.
Photo : Nathalie Burelle @ lequébecenimages, CCDMD

The largest concentration of Northern Gannets can be found in Quebec; more precisely, in the St. Lawrence estuary and gulf. The largest colony can be found in Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé Provincial Park, where there were approximately 58 000 pairs in 2014. Northern Gannets eat fish. They spot them while flying, then plummet and dive into the water. In this way, they can hit the water at speeds of more than 160 km/h and descend to a depth of 10 metres to seize their prey. They resurface after a few seconds with a fish in their beaks before taking flight again.

Health report on the St. Lawrence

The St. Lawrence River has suffered tremendously over the past few centuries as a result of human activities like urban and industrial development and agricculture.

Fortunately, beginning in the 1970s, restoration and protection initiatives, most notably the St. Lawrence Action Plan, were undertaken to save this majestic river. The results are encouraging, but a great deal of work remains to be done. Want to know more?

To assess the health of the river, biologists study a series of indicators, such as the abundance of animal and plant species, their habitats, their level of contamination, water and sediment quality, as well as the recreational uses made of the river, such as swimming, shellfish harvesting, and fish consumption. In some cases, the indicators act as warning signs: they help to identify what action should be taken to remedy a problem.

The Biodiversity of the St. Lawrence

Assessing the biodiversity of an ecosystem is a painstaking task that requires a phenomenal amount of information—information that is often missing or incomplete. However, the biodiversity of the fish in the St. Lawrence has been studied in some detail. In the case of freshwater fish, a wide variety of species are thought to exist, particularly in Lake Saint-Louis and Lake Saint-Pierre. However, fish biodiversity is lower in Lake Saint-François because of the dams that block migration routes and stabilize water levels.


Although 80% of the St. Lawrence wetlands have been destroyed, vast expanses remain that are home to an abundant and varied wildlife. Today, we know how important it is to protect these habitats and to rehabilitate those that have been damaged. These areas are also vulnerable to invasion by exotic plants such as Flowering Rush, Purple Loosestrife and Eurasia Water-Milfoil. Of the 285 plant species found in the St. Lawrence wetlands, 37 are considered exotic. In some places, they cover 44% of the wetlands!


Research has shown that many bird populations once thought to be at risk have now recovered or are in the process of doing so. For example, in the 1960s there were concerns about the survival of the Northern Gannet due to contamination from DDT, a toxic insecticide. Since then, however, the species has come “soaring” back. The proof: Île Bonaventure is home to over 50 000 breeding pairs. The colonies are nevertheless very vulnerable, and they are closely monitored. Their reproductive success varies enormously from year to year: 37% in 2013 and 8% in 2012, which is below the levels required to increase the colony’s sustainability.

Similarly, the Great Blue Heron population comprised approximately 25 000 birds when it was last estimated in 2006, and appeared stable. Concentrations of the main contaminants found in Great Blue Heron eggs (mercury, PCB, DDT, dioxins, furans and brominated fire retardants) have decreased overall by more than 55% since the beginning of the monitoring program in 1991 and are generally lower than concentrations that can be harmful to birds.

Game: The food chain

To complete the following sentence, solve the equations using the secret code. During one meal, a Humpback Whale eats approximately B X C herring, each of which ate D X C plankter, each of which swallowed F X E + A microscopic algae.

  • A = 100 000
  • B = 5
  • C = 1 000
  • D = 6
  • E = 10 000
  • F = 3

Game: Encoded message

Under each letter, write the letter that precedes it in the alphabet:


Answer: ________________________________________


Answer: ________________________________________


Answer: ________________________________________


Answer: ________________________________________


Answer: ________________________________________


Shellfish Harvesting

Many good shellfish (clams and mussels) harvesting areas are closed due to bacterial contamination. This pollution comes mainly from municipalities and isolated residences that discharge their waste water into the St. Lawrence. This problem is more pronounced in the Gaspé and the Lower St. Lawrence than on the Îles de la Madeleine or North Shore.

One measure taken to reopen closed shellfish banks is to encourage residents whose septic systems are not up to code to make the necessary changes.


Swimming is permitted at various sites in the estuary and gulf. In the fluvial section of the river, however, swimming is compromised by the poor bacteriological quality of the water. When the quantity of fecal coliforms in the water is too high, beaches must be closed. Such pollution can be explained by the lack of a final disinfection step in the municipal effluent treatment process, especially at the Montréal and Longueuil waste water treatment plants. Furthermore, when it rains heavily, raw sewage flows into the river untreated. However, there is hope: there are approximately 20 sites between Montréal and Île d’Orléans where the water quality is good enough for swimming 70% of the time.

For more information on the water quality of participating beaches throughout Quebec, please visit the website of the Environnement-Plage Program from the MDDELCC:
mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/programmes/env-plage (French only)

Warning! Invasive alien species prevention and control area.

Refer to the following icons to find out what you can do to curb the proliferation of invasive alien species.

Icon - Symbol of a bullhorn.

Have you found an intruder?

Never return alien species to the wild, either dead or alive. Report their presence to the organization in charge as indicated.

Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being examined under a magnifying glass.

Back from a boat or fishing trip?

Inspect your craft and equipment for mud, aquatic plants, and any visible organisms and debris, and clean everything up, following these five steps:
mffp.gouv.qc.ca/faune/especes/envahissantes/methodes-prevention-controle.jsp (French only)

Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing a fishtank on a car.

Avoid moving organisms from one environment to another. Do not discard water from one lake or river into the body of water where you are currently located. Caution! Since 2013, the use of live baitfish has been prohibited for sport fishing during the summer fishing season, and dead baitfish will also be prohibited as of 2017. mffp.gouv.qc.ca/faune/peche/poissons-appats.jsp(French only)

Icon – Symbol in a circle showing a boat being drained of ballast water.

Before leaving a body of water, empty the water out of your boat and bucket on the spot.

Icon - “No symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing someone releasing a pet turtle.

Do you want to get rid of a pet?

Try to find a new family for it! If you are unsuccessful, do not ever dispose of your pet and its water in the wild, in the toilet bowl or down the drain. Empty the aquarium water onto dry dirt at least 30 metres away from any stream. For full information, visit: http://habitattitude.ca/en/habits

Icon – “No Symbol” (circle and diagonal line) showing firewood on a truck.

Do you want to make a campfire?

Above all else, do not move firewood around! It contains invasive insects, which can destroy the trees in our forests, parks and cities. Obtain wood locally instead; it can be bought in various parks, campgrounds and wildlife areas, etc.

Climate change

Adapting today to tomorrow’s challenges.

As you have seen, climate change impacts our environment. This is why we need to take action today to prepare our societies to face future challenges. But actions are not just long term! Simple everyday actions also make a difference.

Think about preserving water quality by using non-toxic products. Biodegradable shampoo is an excellent option.

Buy local products to reduce the pollution caused by transportation. Even better, repair or reuse what you already have.

Be Prepared!

What to do: In an earthquake, flood, landslide or tornado?

Keep this emergency kit on hand!

  • Non-perishable foods (canned and dehydrated food)
  • Can opener
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Spare set of keys to your home
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Cash
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medication
  • 2 L of water per person, minimum!


Species at Risk in Canada

What is a species at risk?

A species at risk is one in danger of disappearing or that has already disappeared. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) brings together experts on wild fauna and flora. Together, they assess threats to a species and its habitat that could lead to its extinction. If these threats prove to be real, the committee adds the species to the list of species at risk.

Don’t worry—they will not all disappear tomorrow! Species at risk are divided into five categories, based on the risk of extinction.

  • Extinct: The species no longer exists on Earth.
  • Extirpated: The species no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but it is found in other countries.
  • Endangered: The species is facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
  • Threatened: The species is likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
  • Special concern: The species is particularly sensitive to human activities, but it is not yet threatened.

Game: Who am I?

Each of the species pictured here is designated threatened, vulnerable or near threatened in Quebec.

  • Bald Eagle
  • Beluga
  • American Water-willow
  • Lake Sturgeon
  • Piping Plover
A photo of a small white whale with its head above the surface of the water as though observing something.
Photo: © Corel Corporation

A) ________________________________________

A photo of a small, sand-coloured shorebird sitting on a nest, in which two speckled eggs are visible, in the sand. The bird has a black ring around the neck and a black band across its forehead. It has a white chest and underbelly with orange legs and a black-tipped beak.
Photo: Dr. Gordon Court

B) ________________________________________

A photo of two fish of the same species, taken from just above the surface of the water. The fish are in shallow water hovering over a rocky substrate. We can observe their dark brownish coloration, rounded yet slightly elongated snouts, and barbels (sensory organs) that hang near their mouths.
Photo: © Corel Corporation

C) ________________________________________

A photo of a large raptor in flight with dark plumage on its body, a white head, and yellow talons and beak.
Photo: © Corel Corporation

D) ________________________________________

A close-up photo of an aquatic plant species that has delicate white, star-shaped flowers with a mottled, dark pink heart.
Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

E) ________________________________________


How can we help?

When designated as “species at risk,” animals and plants are protected by a federal law: the Species at Risk Act (SARA). They can no longer be hunted or used for commercial purposes. Steps are taken to preserve their habitat, and reintroduction programs are initiated. Thanks to these efforts, 14 species identified as being at risk by COSEWIC have made such a successful comeback over the years that they no longer have that status today.

For example, the American White Pelican was categorized as threatened by COSEWIC in 1978, but was removed from the list of species at risk in 1987.

Action plans

Researchers have written reports and developed action plans to protect species that are threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, including the Copper Redhorse, the Bald Eagle and the St. Lawrence Beluga.

Laws exist to protect species at risk.

Concrete action

Governments, lobby groups and various community organizations are working to improve the condition of the St. Lawrence. And it is working!

Here are some examples:

In 1980, more than 300 Quebec municipalities were discharging their waste water directly into the river. Thanks to action taken under the Municipal Water Purification Program, in force since 1978, more than 95% of domestic waste water is treated in a municipal waste water treatment plant nowadays. A real revolution!

In 2003, a long-term follow-up plan for the condition of the St. Lawrence was developed. Thanks to these indicators, we have a better idea of the river’s health.

In 2005, the Government of Quebec created the first aquatic reserve, the Réserve aquatique de l’Estuaire-de-la-Rivière-Bonaventure, thereby protecting a major wetland in the Gaspé, as well as helping to protect vulnerable species.

The St. Lawrence Global Observatory is the most complete source of scientific information accessible to the public for better sustainable management of the St. Lawrence ecosystem.

The ZIP (Priority Intervention Zone) committees, which are excellent models of community action, have launched more than 1000 concrete and diversified projects since the 1990s. These projects have raised the awareness of thousands of citizens about the condition of the St. Lawrence River, created wildlife habitats and new bicycle paths and, finally, cleaned up hundreds of kilometres of coastline. The ZIP committees do sustainable work and contribute enormously to our river’s health.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. Although the St. Lawrence ecosystem is in good condition, it is still relatively vulnerable.

The Freshwater Fish Ecowatch Network (FFEN)

Under the Freshwater Fish Ecowatch Network, young people are contributing to the body of knowledge on the fish species of the St. Lawrence. These students catch fish in the river and its tributaries, and collect data on their observed state of health. The information they gather is compiled in reports, and the results are made available to scientists. For more information, go to Facebook (www.facebook.com/G3EEWAG).

Water and Sediment Quality

With tighter regulations on industrial discharges to the river, the concentrations of most toxic substances in the water, sediment and organisms of the St. Lawrence are much lower than they were 30 or 40 years ago. However, some areas are still highly contaminated, including Lake Saint-Louis and the Saguenay Fjord, where mercury concentrations are quite high. It has been noted that the water quality in the estuary and gulf is better than it is in the river proper. Generally speaking, so long as the guidelines contained in the Guide de consommation du poisson de pêche sportive en eau douce are followed, the concentration of toxic substances is not high enough to compromise the consumption of marine organisms or freshwater fishes.

Animals at the top of the food chain, such as seals and whales, are more contaminated because they accumulate substances that can adversely affect their health.

G3E: Education and Water Monitoring Action Group

G3E is developing citizen science programs, educational kits and other educational activities focusing on aquatic health. For example, the Adopt a River program involves observing benthic macroinvertebrates (insect larvae, worms, crustaceans) in a river and analyzing certain water quality parameters, such as coliform content and dissolved oxygen.

To explore all the programs, see:

Caring Together

Frédéric Back chose art to convey his environmental message through his paintings, drawings, movies, illustrations, etc. He devoted his life as an artist to working for the environment, raising awareness and promoting the beauties and challenges of our planet.

When he died on December 24, 2013, he left an outstanding legacy to future generations. Thousands of drawings and other creations will continue to convey his message long after his passing.

As a defender of oceans and rivers, he also illustrated the movie The Mighty River, which tells the story of the St. Lawrence River.

On his website, you will find his artwork as well as ideas to inspire you to take action. Who knows, maybe you will discover your inner artist?

Explore the educational kit The Mighty River and several other activities for 3- to 15-year-olds.


By youth, for youth
Youth Statement on water and the St. Lawrence River

Water is life

We are youth committed to saving the St. Lawrence River, other rivers and lakes. We want to do this because:

  • water is necessary for survival. Humans, plants and animals cannot live without clean water;
  • the river and its tributaries are important parts of our history and culture, and contribute to leisure and employment;
  • Quebec and Canada are rich in water; we must protect this treasure.

What does this statement inspire in you?

This statement about water was written in March 2006 by participants at the Youth Summit on Water and the St. Lawrence. Young people, like you, who wanted to raise the awareness of other young people and also adults about the state of the St. Lawrence and its tributaries.

Years later, water issues are still just as important. Take a few minutes to think about all your everyday activities that require water. Unbelievable, right? Share your thoughts about the importance of water with your friends.

The St. Lawrence is in trouble...

The river is not dead—it is very much alive, but it is suffering. We feel disappointed and angry when we see how it is treated and when we learn that:

  • our daily actions such as wasting water and spreading pesticides on our lawns threaten the water we drink;
  • water is also polluted with toxic industrial waste, municipal sewage and by agriculture;
  • some animal and plant species are unhealthy, and certain introduced species (invasive species) are destroying ecosystems;
  • overfishing, excessive hunting and clear cutting are examples of human actions that have destroyed the fauna and flora of the river and its tributaries;
  • natural shorelines are threatened by erosion, dams, seaways and other types of structures;
  • global warming may also harm the St. Lawrence River by affecting water levels;
  • pollution and waste are especially shameful here when we consider that a number of countries experience shortages and droughts.

... and it needs our help

Human actions and decisions have damaged the river, but our actions and decisions can also heal it. We recognize that significant efforts have been made, but they must be sustained and strengthened. We have the will to create change and plan on taking action, individually and together. In this sense, we are now committed to:

  • making our friends, relatives and the members of our communities aware of issues related to water and the river, and motivating them to participate actively in addressing the issues;
  • acquiring more knowledge regarding the problems that threaten the health of the river, its tributaries and water, in general;
  • changing our behaviour and ending waste, reducing pollution, using our resources responsibly, and eliminating the purchase of bottled water;
  • participating in the activities of groups that work on the water and the St. Lawrence River and making them known;
  • participating in the activities of groups that work on the water and the St. Lawrence River and making them known;
  • urging leaders to become interested in water issues, the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.
“We are small drops of water. But when we come together, we create a strong current.” (translation) Mélanie Poirier, Grade 10 student

Adults and leaders must also take action

In addition to our actions, we are going to put pressure on adults and leaders. We expect that they will:

  • genuinely apply and develop current environmental policies and regulations, and that this matter will become a budget priority;
  • apply the Kyoto Protocol;
  • protect natural environments such as wetlands and forests, and restore degraded habitats;
  • develop a maritime and land transportation policy that limits pollution and promotes environmentally friendly modes of transportation;
  • more tightly control industrial polluters and make them aware of the impact of their actions;
  • decrease or eliminate the use of agricultural and residential pesticides;
  • promote the use of low-polluting technologies and related research;
  • encourage protection and development of parks and protected zones;
  • encourage citizens to regain access to the river and its tributaries;
  • consult and involve communities, ecological groups and youth in water and river projects;
  • participate in the activities of groups that work on the projects in schools and communities, and participate in their activities to increase awareness;
  • develop an international vision of respect for water and gain inspiration from examples set by other countries.

Through these actions, we hope that the St. Lawrence River and other rivers will become healthy and clean. We look to the future with hope. Through our commitment and engagement, together we can make a difference.

Get involved!

ENvironnement JEUnesse is a network for youth involvement in the environment in Quebec

ENvironnement JEUnesse brings together and motivates young people and stakeholders in a dynamic, stimulating and well-connected network. Young people live real-life experiences in it: they learn how to exercise their democratic powers, and interact and engage in joint reflection by taking concrete action. That’s the method ENvironnement JEUnesse has chosen to help them grow and become leaders in society. Because by acting together, a real impact on the environment and society can be achieved.

This is accomplished through provincial outreach activities such as days of cycling in the winter. These are extreme events that attract media attention and draw attention to the causes supported by the organization. ENvironnement JEUnesse is a provincial organization that holds activities all across the province. It is a network for Quebec youth involved in the environment. Visit the website to learn more about projects that you could participate in.

For more information: enjeu.qc.ca (French only)


Are you a good EcoWatcher?

NatureWatch is a series of community-based monitoring programs through which researchers obtain data on indicators of the state of health of Canadian ecosystems.

For more information: naturewatch.ca

These are your best tools for the future:


Your ideas and creativity are part of the solutions.


Share your ideas—they will have greater impact. Pass the word!


However modest your actions, they help to make a difference.

Community spirit

Get involved in your community or a mutual aid network.


Learn about and understand the world you live in.

Above all, the future needs young people like you to be tomorrow's decision-makers.

David Suzuki Foundation: Reconnect with the St. Lawrence!

The David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) has been working for more than 20 years to protect natural diversity and our quality of life, now and in the future. For nearly four years, the DSF has been inviting Quebecers to reconnect with the St. Lawrence River. Since the river flows through our communities, the river’s health is our own health. Without this awareness, the pressure from our continued presence on the river will only hasten its gradual degradation. This is why the DSF has created the Ambassadors of the St. Lawrence, to provide a free conference to enable you to get a full grasp of the interconnection between us and the St. Lawrence River. Would you like to organize a conference? Explore all the events and activities for reconnecting with the river.

davidsuzuki.org/fr/ce-que-vous-pouvez-faire/renouez-avec-le-fleuve (French only)

Monique Fitz-Back

Mon climat et moi

The Foundation is a charitable organization focusing on sustainable development as its mission. Together with its partners, the Foundation develops educational kits on the environment, among other things. Mon fleuve et moi is a project to raise young people’s awareness of the St. Lawrence River. Mon climat et moi is an interactive educational website that focuses on climate change and its health impacts. It is a dynamic site, where you will find images, questionnaires, current events and videos to pique your curiosity.

fondationmf.ca (French only)

Oxfam Québec

Oxfam-Québec is an organization made up of dynamic and committed people working together to build a world without poverty.

People are at the heart of its actions. They carry out development projects, save lives by delivering emergency humanitarian assistance, organize fundraisers to support populations in the South, run advocacy campaigns for sustainable change and mobilize Quebec youth. Oxfam-Québec in action is all that!

Young people like you are key to accomplishing these actions. That is why Oxfam offers a number of activities, geared to your interests, so you can become involved and be an actor for social change. By signing up on the mailing list, you will receive the e-newsletter and courses of action to explore: oxfam.qc.ca/en/get-involved/sign-up.

Every spring, some 10 000 youth join in Marche Monde. This colourful event is an ideal opportunity to celebrate joint commitment and meet other young people determined to do their share to change the world. There are several volunteer projects available over the course of the year if you feel like becoming involved in the organization. For further information: oxfam.qc.ca/en/get-involved. This year, all the walkers are providing financial support for Oxfam-Québec projects to provide access to drinking water in Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Vidéo « À quoi rêvez-vous comme monde- » :
oxfam.qc.ca/video/a-quoi-revez-vous-comme-monde (French only)

Oxfam-Québec’s YouTube channel:

Get involved!

Zip program

On your mark, get set, go!

The mission of the Priority Intervention Zone or ZIP committees is to act to conserve the St. Lawrence. These are regional bodies that bring river users together so that they can take joint action. They find solutions to local and regional problems related to the St. Lawrence and the uses made of it. From installing nesting boxes and planting trees to stabilizing riverbanks and developing hiking trails, they play a concrete part in protecting and enhancing the river. These initiatives are wide-ranging and varied, and require the commitment of many volunteers.

You can get involved, too: there are 13 ZIP committees in Quebec. Contact the one in your area to find out about projects in which you can take part.

Find the committee in your region:
strategiessl.qc.ca/les-organismes/les-comites-zip (French only)

Environment Canada’s Biosphere

Look up at the sky a moment… How do meteorologists predict the weather? Do you recognize a brewing storm? Why is the planet warming? Who is in the Arctic besides icebergs and Polar Bears? What will happen to them? Where does energy come from? Do you find that there are more and more extreme weather events?

What do you say? Curious to find out more?

At the Biosphere, you can share your ideas and questions with specialists. With many halls to explore there, you can discover current environmental issues. Come visit to better understand the phenomena associated with the atmosphere, water and climate. You will learn all about global warming, renewable energy, cyclones and more! After a day with us, you will understand about planetary changes, and you will leave with a head full of ideas to change the world! Come visit us with your friends, bring a picnic and feel free to ask questions!

Other ways to take action:


Get informed!

Aquatic Invasive Species, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Environment Canada

Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM)
www.baleinesendirect.net (French only)

Invasive Alien Species, Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques
www.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/faune/especes/envahissantes/methodes-prevention-controle.htm (French only)

Maurice Lamontagne Institute

Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

Mon climat, ma santé
www.monclimatmasante.qc.ca/accueil.aspx (French only)

Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

Mon climat, ma santé

Mon fleuve, Mon histoire
www.radio-canada.ca/sujet/monfleuvemonhistoire (French only)

St. Lawrence Action Plan

St. Lawrence Global Observatory

Stratégies Saint-Laurent

The Great Lakes, Environmental Atlas and Resource Book

Youth X Change

To visit!

A Museum Experience

www.biophare.com (French only)

www.ec.gc.ca/biosphere/Default. asp?lang=En&n=3C2E8507-1

Centre de la biodiversité du Québec

Centre d’interprétation Baie-du-Fèvre
www.baie-du-febvre.net/oies_centre_interpretation.asp (French only)

Île Saint-Quentin
www.ilesaintquentin.com (French only)

Parks Canada

Espace pour la vie


Kits and educational programs

Education and Water Monitoring Action Group

Établissements verts Brundtland
www.evb.lacsq.org/nos-outils/trousses-et-activites-pedagogiques/fleuves-du-monde (French only)

Frederic Back Activity Kits


Vu du large
www.vudularge.ca/index777.html (French only)


Back, Frédéric and Claude Villeneuve. The Mighty River, Montréal, Les E?ditions Que?bec-Ame?rique, 1995, 118 p.

Ducharme, Thierry. Le Saint-Laurent – guide de découverte, Art de Vivre Ulysse, 2013. 288 p. (French only)

Gagne, Jean. À la découverte du Saint-Laurent, Les éditions de l’homme, 2005, 338 p. (French only)

Gingras, D. Capsules-éclair sur l’état du Saint-Laurent : Le fleuve... en bref, Environnement Canada, Région du Québec, Conservation de l’environnement, Centre Saint-Laurent, 1997. (French only)

Guay, Lorraine. À la découverte des îles du Saint-Laurent. De Cataracoui à Anticosti, Cahiers des Amériques, 2003, 400 p. (French only)

Hamel, Jean-Franc?ois and Annie Mercier. The St. Lawrence: The Untamed Beauty of the Great River, Montréal, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2005, 242 p.

Hamel, Jean-François et Annie Mercier. L’estuaire du Saint-Laurent et ses jardins secrets, Saint-Laurent, Éditions du Trécarré, 1996, 173 p. (French only)

Matte, Gilles et Gilles Pellerin, Carnets du Saint-Laurent, collection; Les carnets, 1999, 128 p. (French only)

Ouellet, Marie-Claude. Le Saint-Laurent, un fleuve à découvrir, Montréal, Les Éditions  de l’Homme, 1999, 137 p. (French only)


Back, Frédéric. The Mighty River. Radio-Canada, 1993, animated film.

Lemire, Jean and Alain Belhumeur. Encounters with the Whales of the St. Lawrence, 57 Poly-Productions, 1997.


A dike or dam equipped with a gate allowing the release of flood water from behind but preventing sea water from entering at high tide.

Cultivation of aquatic species.

The area bordering a river or lake, etc. Also shore or shoreline.

All the genes, species and ecosystems in a given region or natural environment.

A cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance at successively higher levels of the food chain.

The front section of the hull of a ship.

Marine species that lives in fresh water and breeds in the sea.

The order of fully aquatic mammals that produce milk to feed their young. This group is limited to whales, dolphins and porpoises.

A passage for ships in the bed of a river or stream.

Meteorological elements that characterize the average and extreme atmospheric conditions over a long period of time, in a given area or location on the Earth's surface.

Refers to an animal that does not generate its own heat and depends on the outside temperature to regulate its temperature.

A box generally made of metal used to transport or store merchandise or other goods or to gather several parcels together in one package.

A small, rounded bay.

To alter or modify to make less natural.

Structure that forms a barrier to water to protect coastlines and lowlands or to control a river and protect its shores.

Toward the direction of flow of a river or stream.

Operation usually carried out in shallow seas or freshwater areas with the purpose of extracting bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location. This technique is often used to keep waterways open for shipping.

A complex set of relationships of living organisms functioning as a unit and interacting with their physical environment.

The removal or wearing away of soil or rock by water, wind, or other forces or processes.

The tidal mouth of a river, varying in width, characterized by the dominance of marine phenomena over river phenomena.

Landmass consisting of Europe and Asia.

The animals of a region, geological period or ecosystem.

Fecal coliform
Bacteria from human or animal excrement whose presence in water indicates that it is polluted and that the water may contain disease-causing micro-organisms.

Flat, muddy regions uncovered at ebb (falling) tide.

The plants of a region, geological period or ecosystem; a catalogue of plants of a defined area.

Volume of water passing through a given section for a given time period; also discharge.

Food chain
The transfer of food energy from plants through animals, with animals lower in the food chain being eaten by animals higher up. For example, a green plant, a leaf-eating insect and an insect-eating bird would form a simple food chain. Any one species is usually represented in several food chains.

A species of fish that feeds or lives near the bottom of a body of water.

A vast basin formed by the ocean in an open cul-de-sac and surrounded by land.

For an animal, the “life range” or arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, space, and climate suitable to that animal’s needs.

Outer shell of a ship.

Signs or symptoms of changes in the health of wildlife populations in a particular area; selected key statistics that provide information on significant trends in the environment, natural resource sustainability and related human activities.

Industrial discharges
A mixture of waste waters left over from a chemical operation or a series of industrial processes.

Invasive alien species
Plant, land or marine animal, alga, bacterium or virus that comes from elsewhere and is often introduced accidentally by marine transport. Invasive alien species have few enemies and multiply rapidly.

A long, shallow-draft ship designed to transport cargoes within the inland water system of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

Refers to marine aquaculture, the branch of aquaculture specializing in the culture of marine animals in their natural environment or in water collected from this environment.

Marine transport
The transport of people or merchandise by sea.

Regular, periodic movements of animals in large numbers, usually away from and back to a place of origin.

Fishing that exceeds the limit above which the renewal of the resource is threatened.

Enclosed place on the deck of a ship sheltering the steering wheel and helmsman.

A planktonic organism; see Plankton.

Organisms drifting or suspended in water, consisting chiefly of minute plants (phytoplankton) or animals (zooplankton), but including larger forms having only weak powers of locomotion.

Pontocaspian region
Term designating the origin of organisms living in the Pontic steppes, the territory north of the Black Sea, stretching through southern Ukraine and Russia, and extending to the eastern side of the Caspian Sea.

The act of preying upon, stalking, killing and eating other animals.

The concentration of mineral salts (mainly sodium chloride or table salt) dissolved in water.

Used to describe a population that does not change habitat.

Particles (clay, sand, etc.) accumulated at the bottom of a watercourse.

Any invertebrate that has a soft body and usually a hard shell, such as a squid, snail or mussel.

The boundary where land and water meet.

St. Lawrence seaway
Navigation route opened in 1959 that stretches from Montréal to Lake Superior. It comprises 19 locks enabling boats to negotiate the difference in altitude of 177 metres (the equivalent of a 59-storey building) between Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence River at Montréal.

The daily alternating rise and fall of the ocean caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon (and Sun) on the Earth.

A stream or river that flows into another watercourse; the Ottawa, Saguenay and Richelieu rivers are tributaries of the St. Lawrence River.

Acronym of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, established in 1946.

The section of a river or stream between a specific point and the source.

Waste water
Water that has been used (e.g., by communities or industrial plants) and is no longer clean.

The land area that drains into a river system or body of water. This runoff water provides sediment and nutrients to the receiving system. Also drainage or hydrographic basin.

Wetlands are the transition from solid earth to deeper open water. Generally covered with shallow water for at least part, if not all, of the year, wetlands refer to any wet area where the water table is close to or reaches the surface. Wetlands include marshes, bogs, ponds, peat bogs and fens. They are an important habitat for amphibians, waterfowl, reptiles and numerous mammals.

Solutions to games and riddles!

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Ecosystem

Game 1

How many species of plants and animals can be found in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence?

Great Lakes: 3500
St. Lawrence: 27000

Game 2

The Great Lakes contain 18% of the planet’s supply of fresh surface water, only 1% of which is renewable.

Game 3

Magtogoek: The path that walks.

Overview of the fluvial section

Game 4

Freshwater fish riddles

a) Walleye (wall-eye)
b) Bass

Game 5

Can you identify these three vessels by studying their silhouettes and reading the clues?

a) Laker
b) Ocean-going freighter
c) Oil tanker

Game 6

The largest rapids in eastern north america are: the Lachine Rapids.

Overview of the estuary

Game 7

Kebec: where the river narrows

Game 8

About 3 million Quebecers get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence River (that’s 45% of the population of Quebec).

Game 9

When they feed in Lake Ontario, eels absorb mirex, a chemical product that remains in the environment for a long time. Some of these eels are eaten by Beluga Whales when they migrate towards the sea in the fall. The Belugas then absorb the mirex and it builds up in their bodies.

Game 10

1. Humpback
2. Orca
3. Porpoise
4. Baleen
5. Beluga
6. Blubber
7. Blowing
8. Blue
9. Tadoussac
10. Fin

Game 11

The cities that take their drinking water from the St. Lawrence are;


The two cities that are at risk of losing the St. Lawrence as their source of drinking water are: Québec and Lévis.

Game 12

Glasswort (glass-wort)

Overview of the gulf

Game 13

Check the map Overview of the Gulf for the answers.

Game 14

The product which rarely contains algal extracts is: bread.

Health Report on the St. Lawrence

Game 15

The food chain:
5000 herring
6000 plankter
130000 microscopic algae

Game 16

Encoded message:
In Quebec, water that contains more than 200 fecal coliforms per 100 millilitres is considered unsuitable for swimming.

Game 17

Threatened or vulnerable species:
A) Beluga Whale
B) Piping Plover
C) Lake Sturgeon
D) Bald Eagle
E) American Water-willow