New Marine Protected Area To Be Established in the Canadian Arctic

Landscape of the northern shore of Baffin Island, where the Lancaster Sound Conservation Area is located. Image: Enric Sala

While news about the Arctic has rarely been positive in recent years (just this week extreme heat in Greenland lead to the rapid melting of its ice sheet) a bright spot of hope emerged this week out of Canada. A far northern Canadian Arctic region named Tuvaijuittuq is on the path to becoming a Marine Protected Area (MPA) after an agreement was reached between the Canadian government and Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA).

What This Will Mean: Although different countries have different definitions of the specifics of an MPA, this designation (as NatGeo reported) “closes off water from mining, oil, and gas extraction, dumping, and fishing with a method called trawling. Canada’s MPA standards are new, published this past April after official recommendations were made by a panel of experts.” By barring Tuvaijuittuq from industrial activities, environmentalists explained that the region will become a refuge for walruses, polar bears, seals, and narwhals as the Arctic ice becomes increasingly unstable.

The Process: While the process to make Tuvaijuittuq hasn’t been finalized, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has been a public advocate for the MPA. NatGeo explained that “the Canadian government creates MPAs by first placing the selected region under an interim protected period while it finalizes terms of the protected space. In addition to the plan to conserve Tuvaijuittuq, Trudeau also announced the official establishment of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.”

Indigenous Communities: The Canadian government worked closely with indigenous communities to protect the region and Inuit leaders believe that since they were involved as stakeholders it will strengthen conservation efforts at Tuvaijuittuq going forward. The QIA want this new marine conservation to be a model of how indigenous groups should be considered. Inuit are on the frontlines of climate change as polar regions are warming and changing more quickly than anywhere else in the world while they have played hardly any role in contributing to climate change.

Why This Matters: As the IUCN explained, oceans cover more than 70% of our planet, store more than 90% of the world’s carbon dioxide, and remove 30% of the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere. They’re also home to some of the most fragile ecosystems and desperately need to be protected the world over to conserve the plants, animals, and people that rely on them being healthy. Tuvaijuittuq which means “the ice never melts” in the Inuktitut language could become a final refuge for sea ice-dependent species but if this area is to truly be protected then climate change and global greenhouse gas emissions need to be urgently addressed.






Now the far northern Canadian Arctic region is set to remain pristine thanks to an agreement reached between the Canadian government and Qikiqtani Inuit Assocation (QIA).

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