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Akimiski Island (NU036)


Akimiski Island (NU036)

James Bay, Nunavut

Latitude 52.987°N
Longitude 81.172°W
Altitude 0 - 5m
Area 3,226.64km²

Site Description

Akimiski Island is situated just east of the mouth of the Attawapiskat River, in mid-western James Bay. The IBA focuses on the northern shores, which are flat and marshy with beach ridges, and the interior of the island, which features numerous small lakes and ponds, as well as sedge marshlands, and fens. Also part of this site is the eastern half of the south coast, including the eel grass beds at Cape Duncan in the southeastern corner. The vegetation communities present on the island have similarities to both northern Hudson Bay associations and to southern associations.

In addition to its importance for birds, the southern region of Akimiski Island is a maternity denning area and the coasts are a summer retreat for polar bears. The mean annual temperature is approximately 2.5°C and the average rainfall and snowfall are 450 and 250 mm respectively.


Akimiski Island is a critical stopover for thousands of geese, ducks and shorebirds. Single day counts in the 1990s have recorded over 10,000 Brant, which is over 3% of this species global population. It is likely that thousands more Brant use Akimiski Island as a spring staging ground. The mid-continent population of Lesser Snow Geese also use Akimiski Island as a spring staging area. During the 1990s, sprong migration counts of Lesser Snow Geese ranged from 10,000 to 20,000. At least 2,000 Snow Geese also nest on the island.

In 1997, a fall migration count recorded over 100,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers, which is almost 4% of this species global population. A small disjunct population of Marbled Godwits (approximately 1,500 birds) breeds along the southwestern James Bay coast. It is likely that the majority of this small population passes through Akimiski Island during migration.

More than 10,000 pairs or 26% of the Southern James Bay Canada Goose population nests on Akimiski Island and more than 24,000 non-breeders may also be present.

The waters surrounding the island provide important habitat for several duck species, such as Oldsquaw and scoters. In total, 140 species of birds have been recorded on Akimiski Island. Of those, 30 are confirmed breeders and an additional 40 probably breed on the island.

Conservation Issues

Potential threats to the island include a 1985 proposal by the Quebec government to dam the mouth of James Bay. If this project was developed, the results could be catastrophic to the James Bay marine and estuarine ecosystem. There is little known about the James Bay population of Marbled Godwits, but because the population is quite small, it may be vulnerable to population declines.

The eastern two-thirds of the island is the Akimiski Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the Canadian Wildlife Service has identified most of the coastline as a Key Migratory Bird Terrestial Habitat site.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Number Year Season
3,460 - 4,1502012Spring
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Number Year Season
Snow Goose
Number Year Season
Little Gull
Number Year Season
Number Year Season
Marbled Godwit
Number Year Season