The silting up of Madelinot ports is accelerating, the cost of dredging is skyrocketing

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has noted significant increases in the quantities of sediment removed from the harbors of the archipelago in recent years.

The overall volume of sediments mined has seen a staggering increase of 65% between 2020-2021 and 2022-2023, excluding statistics from ports that have been dredged only once in the interval.

At the Millerand wharf, the quantity of sand and gravel excavated has increased by 71% in two years. On the Pointe-Basse side, the increase is 24%, while this statistic rises to 13% in Grosse-Île.

Evolution of the quantity of sediment removed from the ports of the Magdalen Islands

Fishing havens

Volume for 2020-2021 (m³)

Volume for 2021-2022 (m³)

Volume for 2022-2023 (m³)

Pointe Basse








Entry Island








Grosse Ile












Cap aux Meules




North Pond








There is an increase in dredging volumes. It depends on the harbors of course, but the general trend is really on the rise and we see that it is accelerating from year to yearsays the Quebec director of the Small Craft Harbors Program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Boussaad Akrour.

Silting up on the Magdalen Islands is our main issue in terms of dredging in Quebec. »

A quote from Boussaad Akrour, Quebec Director of the Small Craft Harbors Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada
An excavator is in operation on a floating barge in a fishing port.

Dredging operations extend over several weeks in certain Madelinot fishing ports.

Photo: Courtesy of CTMA

Although Mr. Akrour specifies that the increased silting phenomenon is also observed in the fishing ports of Gaspésie and the Maritimes, he is of the opinion that the situation in the Magdalen Islands is more problem.

A hefty bill and a operational stress

Costs for dredging operations have increased from $2.2 million in 2019-20 to $3.3 million in 2021-2022.

Although the price of the work is strongly influenced by the volumes of sediment to be extracted, Fisheries and Oceans Canada points out that other significant elements enter into the equation, including the management of contaminated sediments that require special treatment.

Aerial view of a massive pile of sand with a loader and trucks being filled.

Sediment removed from ports must be transported by truck. Thousands of journeys are necessary to dispose of it.

Photo: Courtesy of CTMA

In addition to considerably increasing the bill, the increase in the volume of sediment causes a race against time for the teams responsible for dredging, before the launching of the lobster traps.

It has operational impacts because with the absence of ice, the opening of the fishery is getting earlier and earlier, but on the other hand, we have large volumes of sediment to extract.mentions Boussaad Akrour. So we end up dredging a larger amount of sediment in less time. It gives us stress in operational terms to finish in time for the start of the fishery.

Excavators remove sediment in a fishing port.

The volume of sediment accumulating in Madelinot wharves is increasing sharply.

Photo: Courtesy of CTMA

Complete dredging of all Madelinot fishing harbors is simply impossible before the start of the season: spring operations are limited to clearing the entrance channel to the wharf to ensure the safe passage of boats.

A second phase of dredging, or even a third, is then planned during the summer to completely free the interior of the ports.

Climate change involved

Although it is still too early to fully understand the phenomenon of accelerating silting, the Quebec director of the Ports for small craft program clearly indicates that climate change is to blame.

It is clear that climate change really contributes in large part to the phenomenon, it really affects the dynamics of sedimentation »

A quote from Boussaad Akrour, Quebec Director of the Small Craft Harbors Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Before, the ice was really thicker and remained later in the spring, whereas now the banks are often bare in the face of waves and storms. It creates erosion, so we have more sedimentation that comes from the earth.

Red sandstone cliffs are eroded by the sea.

The erosion of the Magdalen coasts influences sedimentary dynamics (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

Mr. Akrour also points out that the extreme wind and storm phenomena are more and more frequent and that these influence the sedimentary dynamics.

The orientation of harbors in relation to sea currents also has impactshe adds.

A study in progress at Grande-Entrée

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already launched a study to better understand theare phenomena causing increased silting and the solutions to consider. The Grande-Entrée harbor was chosen as the study site.

It’s a trend, we can’t sit back and watch volumes and budgets increase endlessly. It is clear that we must understand what is happening first and then look for solutions.says Boussaad Akrour.

These are quite special phenomena that we must understand in order to find long-term solutions. »

A quote from Boussaad Akrour, Quebec Director of the Small Craft Harbors Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The latter specifies that a resource specializing in the field will look into sedimentary dynamics and try to target the causes using statistics, readings and measurements taken in the field.

We will look at all of this to better understand where it comes from. Then we can think about solution options, whether it’s engineering solutions on how to redesign our harbors when we’re going to rebuild them based on sedimentationexplains Mr. Akrour.

An excavator on a floating barge in the port of Millerand.

Fisheries and Oceans has launched a study to better document the silting phenomenon.

Photo: Courtesy of CTMA

The departure of Madelinot lobster boats is scheduled for May 7. Fisheries and Oceans indicates that the spring dredging of all harbors should be completed on time, unless several days of bad weather change the situation.

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