Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Ecoregion profile: Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Doug Trant and Hugo Larocque, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division


The Îles-de-la–Madeleine ecoregion (Map 3) is one of the smallest and most isolated of Canada’s 194 ecoregions. These islands are located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and despite their size and isolation they are the fifth most densely populated ecoregion in Canada. The population density in 2006 was 57 people per km2, with 13,091 permanent residents living on an area of roughly 230 km2.

The geography of the Îles-de-la–Madeleine ecoregion is constantly changing due to the influence of wind, tidal forces and wave action. These islands are made up of soft sedimentary rocks (sandstones, conglomerates and shales) that are easily eroded thus providing the building materials for the beaches that surround much of the ecoregion.


Forests, rock outcrops, sand dunes, lagoons and wetlands, coupled with a mild maritime climate, all combine to form ecosystems that support many different species of plants and birds in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine ecoregion. There are very few wild mammals on the islands.

A number of rare plant and animal species are found in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine ecoregion due to the unique characteristics of the ecoregion. Some of these species, such as the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) and Roseate Tern (Sterna Dougallii) are both listed as endangered under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act, while the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichum laurentianumi) is listed as threatened. 13 

Forests cover 31% of the ecoregion, followed by grasses and herbaceous plants at 21% and exposed lands, which include beaches and sand dunes, at 20%. Only 2% of the ecoregion is developed land (Chart 3, Table 2 and Map 4).

A large portion of the Îles–de-la-Madeleine ecoregion is protected by both federal and provincial governments. Forty-nine km2, or 21.1%, of the total area is protected by government agencies (Table 2). This area understates the total area actually protected in the ecoregion as private landowners and/or municipal regulations and conventions also serve to protect other parcels of land on the islands.

Population and the economy

Fishing and tourism are the two main industries in the Îles–de-la–Madeleine ecoregion. These industries create employment in other sectors such as transportation and utilities.

Labour force

More than 7,000 people were employed in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine ecoregion in 2006 (Table 2). Sales and service occupations, which include hospitality, were the most common, employing 23% of the total labour force. The second largest employment category was the primary industry sector, which includes the fishing industry. Primary industry occupations comprised 17% of the labour force in the ecoregion compared to only 4% for Canada as a whole (Chart 4). This reflects the reliance of the local economy on the fishing industry.


Despite declines in groundfish landings, brought on in part by the 1993 moratorium on Atlantic cod fishing, the value of fish landed has been rising since 1984 (Chart 5). In 2005, the value of fish landed exceeded $46 million. High value shellfish made up 69% of total landings (based on weight) in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine ecoregion in 2005, compared to 17% in 1990 (Table 2).

Population and tourism

The year-round residential population has been relatively stable in the ecoregion since 1971, ranging between 13,000 and 14,000 inhabitants. In the summer months the tourist season brings a large number of visitors. In 2006, the 13,091 permanent residents received 50,500 visitors, or 3.86 visitors per inhabitant (Table 2 and Chart 6). For comparison, Canada as a whole received 18.3 million visitors from abroad or just under 0.58 visitors for each Canadian in 2006 (Table 2).