The Gully MPA

Photo Credits: Hilary Moors-Murphy (1 and 3); DFO (2)

The Gully Marine Protected Area (MPA) protects the largest underwater canyon in eastern North America. Located off Nova Scotia near Sable Island, the Gully is home to a rich diversity of marine habitats and species, including cold-water corals (also known as deep-water corals) and endangered northern bottlenose whales. The area is globally acknowledged as an important and exceptional marine habitat. After 10 Years as a Marine Protected Area, the Sable Gully Continues to Yield its Secrets. Location of the Gully Marine Protected Area. The largest submarine canyon in eastern North America, it is located 200 kilometres off Nova Scotia, to the east of Sable Island on the edge of the Scotian Shelf.


Fun Facts

  • This deep submarine canyon was formed by erosion caused by the movements of glacial ice and meltwater approximately 150,000 to 450,000 years ago, when much of the continental shelf was above the current sea level.
  • Rare cold-water corals cling to boulders along the slopes of the canyon. The Gully MPA contains the highest known diversity of corals in Atlantic Canada with approximately 30 species identified to date. Some of these slow-growing animals are suspected to be thousands of years old.
  • The Gully is home year-round to an endangered population of northern bottlenose whales, and is also an important habitat for 15 other species of whales.
  • The Gully was the first MPA in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Research and conservation efforts began in the Gully in the late 1980’s. Regulations were enacted under Canada’s Oceans Act to formally designate the Gully MPA in May of 2004. The purpose of the MPA is to conserve and protect the natural biological diversity of the Gully and to ensure its long-term health.

The Gully Management Plan provides guidance to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), other regulators, marine users and the public on protecting and managing this important ecosystem.

The Gully Advisory Committee is a core group of key government and non-government representatives that contributes to Gully MPA management by providing advice and information to DFO and other regulators for decision-making purposes.

The Gully MPA protects a fascinating and unique marine ecosystem for all Canadians. Learn more about the research, conservation efforts, and the weird and wonderful wildlife that call the Gully home.

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the designation of the Gully as a Marine Protected Area. A Progress Report is available that provides the management and research highlights over the last decade.

Coloured topography map shows the variation in depth within the Gully MPA. A full description of the MPA boundary and management zones is provided in the link below the map.
Gully topography image demonstrating the complexity of the canyon bottom


Oceans and Coastal Management Division
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Maritimes Region)
Bedford Institute of Oceanography
PO Box 1006
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4A2
Phone: (902) 426-9919
Fax: (902) 426-2331