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Anticosti inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

Anticosti inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List

UNESCO has added Anticosti Island in Quebec to the World Heritage List, recognizing its significant fossil record spanning over 10 million years of Earth’s history. This achievement was made possible through extensive efforts by the nomination team, including the Government of Quebec, the MRC de Minganie, and the Municipality of L’Île-d’Anticosti. The World Heritage designation will provide protection for Anticosti’s fossil layers and showcase its global paleontological significance.

During its 45th annual session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, to the World Heritage List. This achievement is the result of extensive and dedicated efforts by the nomination team, which includes the Government of Quebec, the MRC de Minganie, and the Municipality of L’Île-d’Anticosti.

Anticosti, also known as Notiskuan (“where bears are hunted”) by the Innu and Natogostec (“land of before”) by the Mi’kmaq, received strong support from the Innu communities of Ekuanitshit and Nutashkuan, who actively participated in the site’s nomination process in recent years.

Spanning over 9,200 square kilometers with a coastline extending for more than 550 kilometers, Anticosti represents one of the most significant stratigraphic sequences in thickness and offers the most comprehensive fossil record of marine life from a period spanning over 10 million years of Earth’s history, occurring between 447 and 437 million years ago.

This particular period in Earth’s history had not been previously represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Anticosti’s extraordinary paleontological significance continues to attract prominent researchers from Canada, Quebec, and around the world who are eager to study its abundant, diverse, and well-preserved fossils. Anticosti Island is home to over 1,440 known fossil species, and these assemblages provide crucial insights into global climate and sea level changes that led to the mass extinction of nearly all ocean life on the planet at the end of the Ordovician period.

The World Heritage designation of Anticosti includes protection for all the exposed fossil layers along its coastline, as well as the Vauréal and Jupiter rivers. The site is safeguarded against any development or industrial activities because it is entirely situated within a network of strictly protected areas, including a proposed biodiversity reserve, a Quebec national park, and two ecological reserves.

Anticosti’s addition to the World Heritage List adds to Canada’s growing list of remarkable World Heritage sites, including notable locations such as Tr’ondëk-Klondike, Nahanni National Park, Wood Buffalo National Park, Gros Morne National Park, the Historic District of Old Québec, and the Rideau Canal National Historic Site.

World Heritage sites are exceptional places globally recognized for their Outstanding Universal Value, representing a shared heritage that unites all of humanity.

Quotes

“Anticosti Island, with its remarkable fossil collection, unveils the narrative of events that transpired on our planet some 447 to 437 million years ago. It provides us with invaluable insights into how climate shifts and rising sea levels during that era played a pivotal role in Earth’s first mass extinction event. I extend my gratitude and congratulations to all those who contributed to Anticosti’s inclusion on the World Heritage List. I am well aware of the considerable time and effort invested in achieving this milestone, having been actively involved in the Anticosti campaign before entering politics. I’ve had the privilege of visiting the island and witnessing its wonders firsthand.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault

Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“Anticosti is a true treasure, not only for Quebec and Canada but for the entire world. This extraordinary island unravels the mysteries of our past and the profound impact of climate change on Earth millions of years ago. Its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List is a historic moment that we should all take pride in. Congratulations to everyone who played a part in making Anticosti Canada’s 22nd World Heritage site!”

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Member of Parliament for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine

“Today marks a historic day. Anticosti is an iconic island, globally renowned for the abundance, diversity, and preservation of its fossils. It also represents a unique natural environment where numerous species coexist and needed protection. This UNESCO World Heritage recognition is the culmination of several years of effort, which our government expedited by officially designating Anticosti as a protected area in 2020. Following the achievement of our 17% protected areas target in 2020, Quebec continues to lead in biodiversity conservation.”

Benoit Charrette

Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks and Minister responsible for the Laurentides region, Government of Quebec

“Inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List signifies global recognition of a site’s exceptional universal value and provides extensive international visibility. Anticosti Island now joins the prestigious ranks alongside two other Quebec sites: the Historic District of Old Québec and Miguasha National Park in the Gaspé Peninsula. This prestigious designation is the culmination of seven years of collaboration and consultation with all partners. My sincere thanks to everyone for their unwavering commitment.”

Martine Biron

Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie and Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Government of Quebec

“We take immense pride in being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. This remarkable recognition marks the start of a new chapter and an opportunity to invest sustainably in projects benefiting the residents of Anticosti and securing the island’s future. It’s time to take action and warmly welcome visitors from around the globe.”

Hélène Boulanger

Mayor of the Municipality of L’Île-d’Anticosti

“This decision underscores Anticosti Island’s uniqueness on the world stage and, most importantly, emphasizes the necessity of its preservation and the showcasing of its exceptional treasures. Today is the beginning of an exciting journey for the people of Anticosti. This recognition will have positive impacts not only for the Minganie region but also in promoting Quebec internationally.”

Meggie Richard

Prefect of the MRC de Minganie

“As part of our Nitassinan, Anticosti Island holds significant spiritual value, reflecting our identity and culture. The collaboration among our communities, municipal, regional, governmental, and scientific entities has led to UNESCO World Heritage recognition for this site. We are eager to continue this cooperation to ensure the site’s continued enhancement.”

Jean-Charles Piétacho

Innu Chief of Ekuanitshit

“We are thrilled with UNESCO’s recognition of Anticosti, which will help promote Innu culture both locally and globally. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with local, regional, and national stakeholders to enhance this exceptional site.”

Réal Tettaut

Chief of the community of Nutashkuan

“UNESCO’s decision will facilitate the sustainability of world-class scientific research due to the island’s abundance, diversity, and exceptional preservation of fossils. This reaffirms that Anticosti Island stands as the premier natural laboratory on Earth for studying fossils and sedimentary layers from the planet’s first mass extinction event.”

André Desrochers

Scientific Director of the Steering Committee for the nomination of Anticosti to the World Heritage List for UNESCO and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Quick Facts

On September 19, 2023, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee officially added Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, to the World Heritage List during its 45th annual session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This achievement was made possible through the extensive and dedicated efforts of the nomination team, which included the Government of Quebec, the MRC de Minganie, and the Municipality of L’Île-d’Anticosti.

The nomination of Anticosti, known as Notiskuan (“where bears are hunted”) by the Innu and Natogostec (“land of before”) by the Mi’kmaq, received strong support from the Innu communities of Ekuanitshit and Nutashkuan, who actively participated in the site’s nomination process in recent years.

Covering an expansive area of over 9,200 square kilometers and boasting a coastline stretching more than 550 kilometers, Anticosti Island represents one of the largest stratigraphic successions in thickness and the most comprehensive fossil record of marine life during a period spanning over 10 million years of Earth’s history, between 447 and 437 million years ago. This particular era in Earth’s history had not been previously represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Anticosti’s exceptional paleontological significance continues to attract prominent researchers from Canada, Quebec, and around the world, eager to study its abundant, diverse, and well-preserved fossils. Currently, there are over 1,440 known fossil species on Anticosti Island, and these fossils provide valuable insights into the changes in global climate and sea levels that led to the extinction of nearly all ocean life on the planet at the end of the Ordovician period.

The World Heritage designation of Anticosti encompasses all the exposed fossil layers along its coastline as well as the Vauréal and Jupiter rivers. The site is shielded from any development or industrial activities as it lies entirely within a network of strictly protected areas, including a proposed biodiversity reserve, a Quebec national park, and two ecological reserves.

Anticosti’s inclusion in the World Heritage List adds to the growing list of such sites in Canada, including remarkable places like Tr’ondëk-Klondike, Nahanni National Park, Wood Buffalo National Park, Gros Morne National Park, the Historic District of Old Québec, and the Rideau Canal National Historic Site.

World Heritage sites are extraordinary places globally recognized for their Outstanding Universal Value, representing a shared heritage that unites all of humanity.

SOURCE: Parks Canada

CONTACT:

  • Kaitlin Power, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, 819-230-1557, kaitlin.power@ec.gc.ca
  • Media Relations, Parks Canada, 855-862-1812, pc.media@pc.gc.ca
  • Media Relations, Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs, 418 521-3991, relations.medias@environnement.gouv.qc.ca
  • Media Relations, Communications and Public Affairs Branch, Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, medias@mri.gouv.qc.ca
  • Mathieu Gravel, Managing Director, Municipality of L’Île-d’Anticosti, 418-535-0311, directiongenerale@ile-anticosti.org
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