Baie Sainte-Marguerite Closed to Watercraft

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Mitigating Watercraft-caused Disturbance to Belugas

Baie Sainte-Marguerite is a sector that has been studied by the Marine Park team since 2003. The knowledge gained and collaboration with local stakeholders have helped protect the bay by making it off-limits to watercraft during the summer months. After several years of voluntary closures, the measure became mandatory in 2018.
Located in the heart of the Saguenay Fjord, Baie Sainte-Marguerite is a place where female belugas care for their young, feed and rest. This bay is now protected to limit disturbance and contribute to the recovery of this endangered species.

Scientific Monitoring

Every summer, a scientific study is carried out from the lookout known as “La Halte du Béluga” in Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park. Here, an observer documents the presence, position and behaviour of belugas in the bay at regular intervals. The presence of watercraft is also noted in an effort to establish correlations in the data.
In addition to Baie Sainte-Marguerite, the same scientific monitoring is also conducted at other locations within the beluga’s critical habitat. Such monitoring contributes to a superior, larger-scale understanding of the sectors of interest for the species in and around the Marine Park.

Protection in Action

Every year, the bay is off-limits to boats between June 21 and September 21. Adjacent to the bay, in the fjord, a transit zone has been established where boaters and users of human-powered watercraft are recommended not to stop and to maintain speeds of between 5 and 10 knots. They are also encouraged to alter their trajectory in order to distance themselves from the bay. Closure of the bay and voluntary compliance with recommendations in the transit zone help lower underwater noise levels and mitigate disturbance to belugas.
Understanding just how important the bay is to belugas, the Marine Park team has met with local fishing associations and whale-watching companies in order to find the best way to protect belugas without disrupting the activities of coastal communities. Strong social acceptability will help ensure the effectiveness of this protective measure.


Since 2018, rerouting boats has had a noticeable effect on the distribution of belugas and the expanse of their habitat. The presence of boats in the bay has dropped from 40% (before 2018) to less than 5% since 2022.

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