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The shallow water is caused by a wide underwater plateau covering an extended area of 12,000 square miles (42,000 km²). Depths at the cap range from approximately 400 feet (122 m) to 2,300 feet (700 m).
The Flemish Cap is located within an area of transition between the cold waters of the Labrador Current and warmer waters influenced by the North Atlantic Current. The mixing of the warmer and colder waters over the plateau produces the characteristic clockwise circulation current over the cap.
The waters of the Flemish Cap are deeper and warmer than the Grand Banks. The 58,000-square-kilometre area may have served as an important refuge for marine species during the last ice age. The waters of the Flemish Cap are noted as excellent fishing waters. Halibut, swordfish, shrimp, scallop, yellowtail and other marine species may be found in abundance there.
The Flemish Cap lies outside Canada's 200 nautical mile (370 km) Exclusive Economic Zone established in 1977, and is therefore in international fishing waters. Overfishing has become a serious issue in recent years. Cod and American plaice are particularly endangered here and the numbers of redfish have shown a significant decline.
In recent years, Canada had made an effort to prevent overfishing in the region by use of provisions of the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.
The origin of the Flemish Cap's name is unclear. It arguably refers to Flemish fishermen venturing out this far West in the nineteenth century.