Île Bonaventure, 5 km2, is located in the Gulf of St Lawrence, 3 km offshore from Percé, Québec. For centuries, this site has been an object of curiosity and wonder among its explorers and visitors. The most noteworthy feature of the island is a migratory bird population of GANNETS (Morus bassana), assumed to be the largest colony of this species in the world. Other bird species inhabit the island in smaller numbers.
Despite its minute size, a favourable climate and abundant cod stocks induced French entrepreneurs to establish a seasonal fishery operation there in the 1600s. Simon Denys obtained seigneurial title (1674); his son Pierre had a chapel erected, soon thereafter razed by fire (1690).
The population has been noted for its folkloric imagination. Irish and Channel Islanders arrived by the final decade of the 18th century. Jersey merchant families built the cod exportation industry. Peter Du Val (1767-1851), a Jersey-born merchant and privateer, is a prominent figure in the island's mythology. Mountenay William DU VAL and his wife, Matilda, began conservation efforts during a period of the bird population's greatest decline.
The population of the island peaked (at approximately 200) before 1850. Full expropriation by the province of Québec in 1971 decreed depopulation. The site has since been designated a provincial park, and along with PERCÉ ROCK, it is a migratory BIRD SANCTUARY.