Feds to fund protected areas for birds, bowhead whales

Warmed-over pact creates three new sanctuaries


Dusting off an 18-month-old piece of news to make it look fresh again, federal Environment Minister John Baird signed a deal in Ottawa last week that will create three new wildlife sanctuaries in Nunavut and compensate Inuit for 10 others that have existed for many years.

First "announced" in February of 2007, the agreement, signed this past Aug. 22, has been common knowledge in Nunavut since the fall of 2006, when negotiators signed off on it.

It's an Inuit impact and benefit agreement covering Nunavut's migratory bird sanctuaries and national wildlife areas.

Those include three new wildlife areas: a long-awaited bowhead whale sanctuary at Isabella Bay near Clyde River and two new protected areas near Qikiqtarjuaq for birds that officials from the Canadian Wildlife Service have been negotiating for years.

The two Qikiqtarjuaq sanctuaries are called the Qaqulluit National Wildife Area, also known as Cape Searle, and the Akpait National Wildlife Area.

As is suggested by their names, the Qaqulluit area will protect Canada's largest colony of fulmars, while the Akpait area will protect a large colony of murres.

The sanctuary near Clyde River, which covers the summer feeding area used by bowhead whales at Isabella Bay that used to be called "Igaliqtuuq," will now be called the Niginganiq National Wildlife Area.

Every July, at least 300 bowhead whales arrive at Isabella Bay to feed in its plankton-rich waters.

For more than 20 years, the people of Clyde River have worked with the World Wildlife Fund to develop a whale sanctuary there, hoping to develop whale-watching and eco-tourism businesses.

"This is a big day for Inuit," said James Eetoolook, NTI's second vice president, who stood in for president Paul Kaludjak at the signing ceremony in Ottawa.

Inuit harvesting rights, as guaranteed by the Nunavut land claims agreement, are protected within wildlife areas and bird sanctuaries.

As well, Inuit, mostly through regional associations, will control tracts of Inuit owned land inside the boundaries of bird sanctuaries and wildlife areas.

That includes the huge Queen Maude Gulf Bird Sanctuary in the Kitikmeot, which now lies in the middle of a mineral exploration boom.

This protected area, created in 1961, covers 6.3 million hectares and contains the nesting ground for 90 per cent of Canada's Ross's goose population.

When deciding on whether to allow activities on Inuit-owned parcels of land, the Canadian Wildlife Service must take into account the objectives of the affected community and region, and the economic importance to Inuit.

Inuit will participate in co-management committees that the Canadian Wildlife Service will set up using some of the money that Ottawa has committed to the IIBA.

The Kitikmeot Inuit Association, in a separate news release, said they're happy with the parts of the IIBA that apply to the Queen Maude Gulf Bird Sanctuary.

The main difference between a "wildlife area" and a "bird sanctuary" is that bird sanctuaries offer protection only to migratory birds, but not to other forms of wildlife. Wildlife areas offer protection to all forms of wildlife.

Under the impact and benefit agreement, Ottawa will spend $8.3 million between now 2014, when the deal will be renegotiated.

Of that, NTI will manage $5.6 million, including:

  • a $4-million tourism business fund;
  • a $1 million fund for heritage and interpretive material;
  • $600,000 for Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq.

The Canadian Wildlife Service will spend $2.7 million to run co-management committees, hire summer students, hire research assistants and compensate affected HTOs for emergency bear kills.

The existing protected areas in Nunavut, many of which were created decades ago, include:

  • Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Pond Inlet);
  • Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Cape Dorset);
  • East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Coral Harbour);
  • Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Coral Harbour);
  • McConnell River Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Arviat);
  • Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area (Grise Fiord);
  • Polar Bear Pass National Wildlife Area (Resolute Bay);
  • Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Resolute, Arctic Bay);
  • Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Omingmaktok);
  • Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Resolute Bay.)
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