The federal government and Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) today announced an historic agreement that finalizes a joint governance model for the long-sought Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area which will protect more than 109,000 square kilometres of biologically rich Arctic waters.
The accord, called an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement, is the last major step toward completion of Canada's largest national marine conservation area at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, and represents decades of work by Inuit to safeguard a culturally significant region crucial to their subsistence way of life. Large populations of narwhal, bowhead whales, beluga and other marine mammals migrate through these icy waters each year.
"We are thrilled to celebrate the protection of this spectacular marine ecosystem in a way that will benefit Inuit and all Canadians for future generations," said Christopher Debicki, vice-president of policy development for Oceans North. "This is a sign of Canada's commitment to conserve its Arctic waters, including other biologically rich regions like the North Water polynya."
The new national marine conservation area will be co-managed by Parks Canada and Inuit under the agreement. An Inuit advisory board will be established to oversee Tallurutiup Imanga. Ottawa will also invest $190 million in the broader region to support new infrastructure, like small craft harbours, and employment opportunities, including an Inuit environmental stewardship program, for the five Nunavut communities bordering the national marine park.
"Co-management of this area by Inuit and the federal government speaks to the critical importance of having Inuit involved in governance of their adjacent waters," Debicki said. "We believe this is a very positive development and hope it is a sign that Canada recognizes the value of joint governance with Inuit in the larger Canadian Arctic marine region."
The final boundaries of Tallurutiup Imanga (also known as Lancaster Sound) are much larger than some of the previous proposals for this area. Three years ago, Shell voluntarily relinquished its oil and gas leases on the eastern edge of this region, paving the way to expand the national marine conservation area and the protection of this critical marine habitat. Oil and gas drilling, mineral extraction and seismic testing are not allowed in national marine conservation areas.
Oceans North supports made-in-the-Arctic solutions through partnerships with Indigenous organizations and northern communities to foster Arctic ecological resilience.