Grand Banks | WWF

Grand Banks

About the Area

The Grand Banks extends for hundreds of miles. The cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream meet near the Banks, a mixture that produces unusual air masses and heavy fog. Icebergs and severe storms are also common.
This might seem like a harsh environment, but the mingling of cold and warm water and the constant upwelling of nutrient-rich water to the surface have many benefits. For one, they create perfect conditions for plankton, a major food source for fish.

The Grand Banks is a highly productive region, supporting huge schools of pelagic fish, groundfish, and feeding whales. This area contains approximately 111 species of marine annelid worms and about 30 species of marine mammals.

Historically, the area supported some of the world's most productive fisheries, but overfishing and other activities have seriously degraded the ecosystem and depleted its biota.

Local Species
Part of the rich ecosystems that support an impressive mammal fauna are Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), and Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus). Besides Beluga whales, marine mammals include the endangered Northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), and the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).

Overfishing, especially of herring and cod, has seriously altered marine communities. Pollution related to offshore dumping and the discharge of industrial and domestic wastes from major cities have severely degraded both estuaries and coastal waters.

Eutrophication has resulted from sewage discharges, mariculture, fish processing plants, and pulp and paper mill effluents. Historically, Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) populations have been under intense hunting pressure in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

Presently, belugas suffer from diseases associated with a suppressed immune system and the concentration of industrial toxic products (e.g., DDT) in their blubber.



Habitat type:
Temperate Shelf and Seas

Geographic Location:
Atlantic Ocean off northeast North America

Conservation Status:

Quiz Time!

What is so peculiar about marine worms?

Marine worms ingest large quantities of sediment, and cause the decomposition of organic matter, releasing essential inorganic elements in the water. The tube-building worms can form hard structures on the sea floor that provide habitat for other animals.

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