The Grand Banks are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from 25 to 100 metres in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.
The mixing of these waters and the shape of the ocean bottom here lift nutrients to the surface. These conditions created one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Fish species include Atlantic cod, haddock and capelin. Shellfish include scallop and lobster. The area also supports large colonies of sea birds such as Northern Gannets, shearwaters and sea ducks and various sea mammals such as sealss, dolphins and whales.
Map: Grand Banks
Basque fisherman are known to have fished these waters in the 15th century. However, it was not until John Cabot reached the New World in 1497 that the existence of these fishing grounds became generally known in Europe. Ships from France, Spain, Portugal and England came to fish these waters. These fish stocks were also important for the early economies of eastern Canada and New England.
On November 18 1929, a major earthquake on the Grand Banks caused extensive damage to transatlantic cables and generated a rare Atlantic tsunami which struck the Burin peninsula of Newfoundland and claimed 27 lives.
Technological advances in fishing, such as large factory ships and sonar, have led to overfishing and a serious decline in the fish stocks of the Grand Banks.
Petroleum reserves have also been discovered and a number of oil fields are under development in this region.