Since the first discovery of oil seeps in the Gaspé Peninsula in 1836, hydrocarbon exploration activity has varied and can be subdivided into five time intervals. 1) In the 1860–1950 interval, nearly 70 shallow holes were drilled, and oil recovery was modest. Nevertheless, a small oil refinery was built in 1900, but dismantled in 1904. 2) In the 1950–1970 interval, hydrocarbon exploration in the Gaspé Peninsula declined. The only noteworthy exploration effort was between 1967 and 1970 by Gulf Oil Ltd., who drilled the 3536 m deep Gulf Sunny Bank No. 1 well in 1970. Although dry, this well became a valuable source of information on the Devonian succession of eastern Gaspé. 3) In the 1970s, there was a renewed interest in hydrocarbon exploration in the peninsula, and the Québec Government founded the Société Québécoise d’Initiative Pétrolière (SOQUIP). At the same time, a research centre, the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS-Pétrole), was formed to support SOQUIP’s exploration activities. Seismic profiling, drilling, and various laboratory investigations, mainly in northeastern Gaspé, resulted in a much better understanding of the area, but no significant hydrocarbons were discovered. 4) In the 1980–95 interval, there was a precipitous decline in exploration activity. SOQUIP and other major hydrocarbon corporations left the peninsula. Although some land was acquired by junior exploration companies, they had limited exploration programs and minimal success. 5) Since 1995, hydrocarbon exploration activity has increased significantly, in part due to an important oil discovery in 1995 in western Newfoundland. Shell Canada acquired the exploration rights to a large area of the Silurian–Devonian Gaspé Belt in the northeastern part of the peninsula. They initiated a large-scale research project in order to evaluate the reservoir potential of the Silurian–Devonian carbonates and coarse-grained siliciclastics and to understand source rock distribution in the peninsula. The results of this research constitute the main part of this special issue of the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology. Finally, recent drilling by Junex Inc. delineated a 500 MMcf/80 acre gas field in fractured Devonian limestone. This gas pool is expected to produce in the fall of 2001.