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The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is a national marine conservation area on the north shore of Lake Superiormarker, announced by Canadianmarker Prime Minister Stephen Harper on October 25, 2007 at a press conference in Nipigon, Ontariomarker. Although there have been previous national marine parks, this is the first area in Canada to be designated as a "National Marine Conservation Area", as defined by the Marine Conservation Areas Act. It is the largest freshwater marine protected area in the world.

The area extends eastward from Thunder Baymarker, from Thunder Cape in the west, at the tip of Sleeping Giant Provincial Parkmarker, to Bottle Point in the east, and stretches southward to the Canada-US border, linking with Isle Royale National Parkmarker. It also anchors existing protected areas to the north, including the Nipigon River, Lake Nipigonmarker, and the Wabakimi Provincial Park.

Designation process

Proposals to protect the area were first suggested in the mid-1990s and formal plans were first announced in 2002.

The marine conservation area was established after discussion with provincial and First Nations representatives. The First Nations in the area, represented by Wilfred King, the regional grand chief of the northern Superior region, endorsed the proposal once they were satisfied that it respected the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.

Parks Canada distributed questionnaires to local residents as a public consultation. 67% of respondents supported the "largest possible designation area," with 13% opposing any NMCA designation, and the remaining supporting some form of NMCA.

Ecology

The zone covers roughly of lakebed, its overlaying freshwater, and associated shoreline on of islands and mainland. The area is home to numerous species including herons, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles. The spawning and schooling waters of deep coldwater fish, such as whitefish, lake herring, walleye, and lake trout will be protected by this zone. Caribou foraging and calving areas are located on shore. Lake Superior is home to about 70 fish species.

The official designation prevents resource extraction or other operations which may damage the aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems in the conservation area. However, per the agreement with the First Nations, it does not exclude all commercial marine activity, such as shipping, and commercial and sport fishing.

Acquisition of Wilson Islands

In 2009 the Wilson Islands were purchased from private owners. These eight almost untouched islands lie off Rossportmarker in Ontario waters. The acquisition was made by the governments of Canada and Ontario, and the Nature Conservancy of both Canada and the United States, with donated funds, much of which were contributed by U.S. donors. The acquisition had substantial support from the Pays Plat First Nation, which will cooperate in stewardship of the islands.

The islands include cliffs, both rocky and sandy shorelines, coastal wetlands, and deep forests. Flora include the rare mountain fir moss and northern woodsia fern; fauna include peregrine falcons, Bald Eagles, and shorebirds. Their habitat will now be protected from mining and other development. By this acquisition, the marine conservation area, already the largest freshwater protected area in the world, acquires and preserves over 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) of land in the heart of the preserve.

History

Historic shipwrecks lie on the seabed of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, including the Gunilda at Rossportmarker. The shores have two areas of First Nation pictographs and Sibley Peninsulamarker has archaeological sites from Paleoindian, archaic, and woodland settlements.

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