In a Nutshell: The Bay of Fundy
© Blue Legacy/Oscar Durand
Sandwiched between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, this bay, created by the separation of continental plates millions of years ago is a hub for marine life. Its constant tidal motion washes massive amounts of rich mud deposits ashore, creating expanses of mud flats and marshland that are a beacon to migrating shore birds. With each tidal cycle, 230 billion tonnes of water flow into and out of the bay. By the time the tides reach the Inner Bay of Fundy they are so powerful that they shoot water 16 miles upstream the Petitcodiac River, for example. In some parts of the bay, the tides are over 50 feet high.
In the summer, the boats venture out into the water in search of the 19 species of whales found here, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. This place boasts more marine mammals species than any other place in Canada. The large tides leave massive expanses of mud flats and salt marshes exposed, the perfect place for phytoplankton to thrive and supply the marine food chain with a massive nutrient base.
There are so many remarkable species that rely on the churning waters here. Take the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon that don’t migrate over to the Greenland like other wild Atlantic salmon but instead take a turn around the bay in a counterclockwise direction. Or the American shad, for which the upper Bay of Fundy is a critical summer habitat . Or the millions semipalmated sandpiper that stopover here during their annual migration from the Canadian subarctic to Surinam to the Canadian subarctic, refueling on tens of thousands of small mud shrimp in a day.
We are parked in Saint Andrews, a small retirement town over towards the border with the state of Maine in the northwest coastline of this 170-mile long bay. It is supremely beautiful country. White houses sit in the midst of orange and yellow leaved trees while the great big blue sea seems to widen in front of your eyes. We have been blessed with crisp blue skies and a wind that nips at your ears although the weather is supposed to turn later this week.
Everywhere we go, the ocean’s pull can be felt. Whether it’s on the tidal shores around Saint Andrews where clam diggers rake the rich dark sand for their keep or over in Moncton where the Petitcodiac River, a remarkable tidal river, churns chocolate brown awash with ocean sediment. Most menus that we’ve seen feature locally sourced seafood: lobster, scallops, clams, mussels. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how the Acadians deported from Atlantic Canada in the 1700s seeded the sea-loving Cajun culture we visited in Louisiana. The deported Acadians shortened their name to Cajun and exchanged one rich body of water for another. It’s easy to see where the warm hands and level gaze of Cajuns came from when you spend time out here.