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Bay of Fundy

Site Facts

Country, State,
Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Relative Location:
Two sections of the Upper Bay of Fundy, Shepody Bay (NB) and Minas Basin (NS)

45˚ 9' N, 64˚ 18' W

Hemispheric Site

Basis for Designation:
Between 1,000,000 and 2,500,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla in any one year (up to 75% of world population)

62,000 ha (153,200 acres)

1987 (New Brunswick)
1988 (Nova Scotia)

Site Owner/Steward:
Province of New Brunswick, Province of Nova Scotia, Canadian Wildlife Service

Site Partners:
Ducks Unlimited Canada, The Nature Conservancy of Canada

Human Population within 100 km


Julie Paquet
Canadian Wildlife Service


The Bay of Fundy is a northern temperate, macrotidal environment forming the northeastern extension of the Gulf of Maine, and has been utilized by humans (and wildlife) for millennia. Overall, the Bay extends approximately 250 km in a northeasterly direction between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and its uppermost region is divided into two distinctive bodies of water: Chignecto Bay in New Brunswick and Cumberland Basin and Minas Basin in Nova Scotia.

Both upper arms of the Bay of Fundy are macrotidal and boast of having the highest tides in the world (17 meters). Both sites accommodate approximately 3,000 hectares of mudflats during the low tide periods, habitats which contain a rich community of intertidal invertebrates, marked primarily by the burrowing amphipod Corophium volutator. In turn, these mudflats provide critical food resources for both fish and migratory shorebirds, principally a significant portion or 70% of the world’s population of Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla.

The intertidal portions of the Bay of Fundy, up to the high tide mark, are managed by the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while subtidal regions are managed by the federal government. The upper beaches, which extend to the high tide mark of the bay, are privately owned. Chignecto Bay, from Fort Folly Point (between Chignecto Bay and Cumberland Basin) to Mary’s Point/Grindstone Island, to Cape Maringouin, New Brunswick, makes up the Shepody Section of the Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site (1987). The southwestern extension of Minas Basin, from Blomidon to Pembroke south to Windsor, Nova Scotia, makes up the Southern Bight, Minas Basin Section of the shorebird reserve (1988). Part of the intertidal portion of the Southern Bight is managed by the province of Nova Scotia (N.S. Dept. Natural Resources) as a conservation area.

Banded Semipalmated SandpiperThe climate is temperate with cold winters December to March (-4.7 to -2.5°C), warmest in July and August (17.1 and 16.9°C, respectively) with moderate days and cool nights, rainiest in May and October (115.9 and 122.6 mm, respectively). Each year, the Bay of Fundy supports between 1.1 and 2.2 million migrant Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla, or 70% of the world’s population of this species during their southward migration. The mouth of the bay also serves as a critical rearing and foraging area for the endangered Right Whale.

Herring and lobster fishing and aquaculture are major industries in the Bay of Fundy, and digging for clams is a common pastime over the summer months. Fisheries and ecotourism are major industries in small towns and villages bordering the Bay of Fundy, and an annual sandpiper festival is held in Dorchester, New Brunswick, each year.



Ecology & Conservation

The upper Bay of Fundy (Chignecto Bay and Minas Basin) is critical to migratory shorebirds, particularly for the Semipalmated Sandpiper over a six-week period in late July and August. Chignecto Bay and the Southern Bight, Minas Basin, are critical habitats to migratory shorebirds and those areas have been recognized internationally as Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserves, Ramsar sites, or Wetlands of International Importance (1986), provincial Conservation Areas (Nova Scotia) and National Wildlife Areas (Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada). The Nature Conservancy of Canada has played a vital role in protecting shorebird roosting beaches throughout the 1980s and 1990s as well as creating Shorebird Interpretation Centers in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to educate the general public about shorebird conservation and did so in close collaboration with those provinces.

Furthermore, portions of coastlines in both provinces are listed as IBAs (Important Bird Areas). Since their re-introduction to the Bay of Fundy by Environment Canada in the mid-1980s, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus has returned as a breeding species in the Bay of Fundy and has re-established itself as a viable population in the Fundy ecosystem as was the case prior to the widespread uses of DDT in the post-war years.

With the increasing popularity of ecotourism, an increasing number of visitors from around the world come to the shores of the Bay of Fundy to view its great tides, extensive mudflats at low tide and, especially, the large flocks of migrant shorebirds during the high tide periods. But with regard to accommodations for these visitors on the beaches of the bay, especially with respect to shorebirds, there is insufficient infrastructure in place to minimize disturbance to roosting shorebirds during high tide periods and maximize education to potential to visitors. Much work remains to be done between federal, provincial and municipal governments and the private sector to create functional interpretation and education centers in those portions of the Bay of Fundy known to be of critical importance to migrant shorebirds and yet do so with minimal disturbance to the birds.

Cottage-building and the expansion of suburbs along coastal areas of the Bay of Fundy, and increasing human access to the shoreline (re: ATVs), continue to create difficult situations for migratory shorebirds which require undisturbed beaches to rest during high tide periods. Furthermore, toxic chemicals in the form of herbicides and pesticides which originate from farming activities along tidal rivers wash into these rivers and accumulate in intertidal areas and especially build up in the tissues of intertidal invertebrates (e.g. the burrowing amphipod Corophium volutator and the small clam Macoma balthica which are, in turn, ingested by sandpipers and plovers where these chemicals build up in their tissues with unknown consequences.

Habitat protection measures and status of conservation efforts

The creation of two Hemispheric Shorebird Reserves and listing critical shorebird intertidal areas as Ramsar sites do not offer legal habitat protection but they officially recognize portions of the Bay of Fundy as being critical to the conservation of migratory shorebirds thus recognizing the need for conservation activities in those portions of the bay. However, the purchasing of roosting beaches and marsh uplands by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, in close collaboration with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, has proven to be concrete conservation measure which will benefit migrant shorebirds for future generations.

Management activities and priorities

Securing pristine roosting and foraging habitats for shorebirds and eliminating, and/or controlling, toxic pollutants from tidal rivers which border the Bay of Fundy should become the primary conservation activities for NGOs and governments with respect to shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy. Continuing the monitoring of the numbers of shorebirds using important roosting beaches along the shores of the Bay of Fundy, by the provinces in collaboration with Environment Canada, will be the primary means by which the success of conservation efforts will be evaluated. However, a major management priority remains to minimize disturbance on those critical beaches and also educate the public about the critical value of conservation in order to ensure the well-being of these long-distance migrants.

Shorebird and related research

A long-term banding program is the best means by which the migrant sandpipers stopping-over in Fundy can be captured and weighed in order to ensure that the birds are depositing the necessary fat resources to successfully complete their southward migrations to Suriname and French Guyana. If not, this would suggest serious problems with the infauna of the mudflats with serious consequences to the birds. Furthermore, the morphometric measurements gathered in the course of a banding programwould assist us in determining which subpopulations (based on sanddpiper bill lengths) are most successful and which subpopulations might be declining. These data would allow conservation groups to know the geographical sources of potential problems and thus where conservation initiatives should be focused (specific breeding /staging/wintering areas).


Special Information

Fundy Shorebird Project: Protecting Globally Important Wetland Habitat Through Local Partnerships (PDF)

In 2004/2005, the Bay of Fundy Shorebird Project initiated working ties with the tourism industry in an effort to reduce or avert human disturbance at shorebird areas caused by visitors.

Contact Us

Julie Paquet
Point of Contact
Canadian Wildlife Service
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville, NB

Documents and References:

Donaldson, G.M. C. Hyslop, R.I.G. Morrison, H.L. Dickson, I. Davidson, eds. 2000. Canadian Shorebird Conservation Plan. Minister of the Environment, Canadian Wildlife Service (Special Publication) 27 pp.

Boates, J. S., R. D. Elliot, M. Gloutney, P.W. Hicklin and R. Melanson. 18 December, 2000. Atlantic Canada Shorebird Conservation Plan (Working Draft), Canadian Wildlife Service – Atlantic Region, Sackville, New Brunswick. 46 pp.

Hicklin, P.W. 1987. The migration of shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy. The Wilson Bull. 99 : 540 – 570

Hicklin, P.W. 2001. A comparison of roost counts in the 1979s and 1990s in the Bay of Fundy. Bird Trends No. 8: 39 – 40. Canadian Wildlife service Special Publication. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 52 pp.

Hicklin, P.W. 2005. Shorebirds under Surveillance – Following the sandpipers of the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Winter 2005, Number 30: pages 8 – 9.

Mawhinney, K.M., P.W. Hicklin and J. S. Boates. 1993. Re-evaluation of the numbers of migrant Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla (Pallas) in the Bay of Fundy during fall migration. Can. Field Nat. 107: 19 – 23.

Morrison, R.I.G., C. M. Downes and B. T. Collins. 1994. Population trends of shorebirds in fall migration in eastern Canada 1974 – 1991. Wilson Bull. 107 (3): 431 – 447.


Bay of Fundy Shorebirds

Shepody Bay Ramsar Information Sheet

Southern Bight Minas Basin Ramsar Information Sheet

Mary's Point Ramsar Information Sheet

Southern Bight, Minas Basin IBA

Shepody Bay West IBA

Dorchester Cape and Grande Anse IBA