Canada's Ocean, Freshwater & US

Location: Offshore Atlantic Marine
Approximate Area: 236,321 hectares
Date of Designation: 2004
Conservation Objectives

To reduce the disruption of dolphin and whale habitats, as well as the habitats of other seafloor-dwelling species. Also, to monitor and maintain the quality of water and sediments within the Gully.


The Gully MPA and its aquatic inhabitants are protected by prohibitions that forbid any activities that disturb, damage or remove any of the marine organisms or their habitat unless the activity is a listed exception in the regulations or approved by the Minister.

Why (environmental context for protection)

The first marine protected area to be established in eastern Canada is located 200 kilometers off Nova Scotia and 45 kilometers east of Sable Island on the edge of the Scotian shelf in the north Atlantic Ocean. This MPA, known as the Gully, is the largest submarine canyon in the western Northern Atlantic, measuring over 65 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide. This spectacular undersea canyon was formed approximately 150,000 to 450,000 years ago by powerful forces of nature such as the movement of glaciers and meltwater erosion when the continental shelf was above current sea levels. The Gully’s shallow sandy banks and deep-water canyon environment are home to a diverse range of aquatic species such as tunas, swordfish, plankton, lobster larvae, Dumbo octopuses, sea birds, sharks, lanternfish, and over 15 species of whales and dolphins including the endangered population of northern bottlenose whales. Additionally, the Gully is a habitat teeming with a plethora of cold-water coral varieties and contains the highest known diversity of coral in Atlantic Canada, with over 30 species of soft coral identified. The location, shape and size of the Gully influence currents and local circulation patterns which cause a significant concentration of small organisms and nutrients within the canyon, making it an ideal environment for marine life to thrive.