[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve

Honourable senators, on July 17, the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO designated the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador as a World Heritage site.

Located on the southeastern point of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mistaken Point is a 17-kilometre-long strip of rugged coastal cliffs of deep marine origin. This reserve is significant because it protects a series of sedimentary rocks containing the world's oldest known accumulation of large fossils, which illustrate the appearance of large, biologically complex organisms which date from 620 million to 543 million years ago.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have long known about the flowers imprinted on the pointy rocks at Mistaken Point. However, it was not until 1967 that the site's scientific value was recognized when a graduate student from Memorial University discovered numerous unusual fossils on exposed rock surfaces along the south coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland.

In 1984, the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve was established as a provisional reserve, and in 1987 it received permanent designation by the provincial government to protect the area's main fossil locations.

In 2004, the reserve was formally added to Canada's tentative list of World Heritage sites, and by 2006 it was widely recognized that Mistaken Point revealed what was happening when Earth's oceans were alive with many peculiar creatures.

Mistaken Point, honourable senators, is like the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's characterized by frequent and persistent fog, southward-flowing streams and several seabird colonies. Mistaken Point gets its name from early mariners who, in foggy weather, mistook the point for that of Cape Race and turned north, expecting to turn into Cape Race Harbour but running into rocks instead. It was a mistake that could prove disastrous as many ships had run aground in the area.

The Mistaken Point fossils are unique, as they are different from any known living animal. These fossils, which are approximately 565 million years old, were preserved by being covered with layers of volcanic ash. They lived at the bottom of a deep ocean, considerably below the depths that waves or light could reach. Mistaken Point records a time when the earth was undergoing a crucial shift to the more familiar world we know today.

The declaration of Mistaken Point as a World Heritage site raises awareness of the importance of preservation. Of more than a thousand heritage sites around the world, there are now 18 in Canada. Mistaken Point is the fourth in Newfoundland and Labrador, joining Gros Morne National Park, L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians celebrated when they learned of the designation of Mistaken Point as a World Heritage site.

Honourable senators, please join me in celebrating the designation of my province's fourth UNESCO World Heritage site, the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.

Back to: Statements