Kevin Kelly, a biologist, said he felt the earthquake on Machias Seal Island in the Bay of Fundy. ((Jacques Poitras/CBC))

A 3.2 magnitude earthquake was recorded in the Bay of Fundy on Sunday afternoon.

Scientists say the epicentre was offshore, close to Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick and about 90 kilometres northwest of Yarmouth, N.S.

A team of research biologists working on New Brunswick's Machias Seal Island, a bird sanctuary in the Gulf of Maine, said they experienced the tremor, which struck around 3:30 p.m.

"We all heard it as much as felt it," said Kevin Kelly.

"At first we thought it was a low-flying plane or the generator starting up. But it didn't sound right for anything that we're used to, so we all sort of looked at each other and said, 'Did you hear that? Did you feel that?'"

Kelly said nothing was damaged during the brief quake. "It was kind of anticlimactic, but I think all of us were like, 'Wow, that was the first one we've ever actually felt.'"     

Earthquakes typically occur where the edges of tectonic plates clash, as they do beneath the Bay of Fundy.

"Stress does build up within a plate and has to be relieved. It's relieved in the means of an earthquake. The earthquakes tend to occur at the weakest point," said Janet Drysdale, a seismologist with the Canadian Geographic survey.

This small quake is one of many that have occurred in the area in recent decades. Scientists say they are important predictors for potentially more powerful quakes in the future.

"Generally earthquakes that occur under the sea have the potential to create tsunamis," Drysdale said, "but in the case of these small earthquakes there is no instance of that."

Drysdale said there have been about 60 earthquakes in the area since 1990. Sunday's was one of the largest.