Chesterfield Inlet mayor pitches deep-sea port to ease effects of increased shipping

“We want to be the port service for the Kivalliq region”

From right: Barnie Aggark, mayor of Chesterfield Inlet; Martine Giangioppi (standing), World Wildlife Fund Canada; Michelle Kamula, University of Manitoba researcher; Sarah Newell, University of Ottawa researcher; David Kattegatsiak, Chesterfield Inlet representative; and Sam Davin, World Wildlife Fund Canada, seen here at the Northern Lights conference on Thursday, Feb. 6, have brought various perspectives to the decrease in the number of beluga whales, seals and other marine species near Chesterfield Inlet. (Photo by Patricia Lightfoot)

By Patricia Lightfoot

Updated on Wednesday, Feb, 12, at 8:30 a.m.

Chesterfield Inlet’s mayor is calling for a deep-sea port to be built near his community to reduce the effects of increased shipping through the inlet that serves Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank mine.

“I think the solution is a deep-sea port for Chesterfield Inlet. We want to be the port service for the Kivalliq region,” Barnie Aggark said at a workshop at the Northern Lights conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 6, at which he spoke alongside university researchers and representatives of the World Wildlife Fund Canada who have worked with the community of Chesterfield Inlet.

He explained that his community is not opposed to the Meadowbank mine, but says that even when the mine was first being discussed close to a decade ago, people in Chesterfield Inlet were concerned that increased shipping would affect the marine mammals the community depends on for food.

Aggark said they are seeing those effects now.

“We’ve been facing an impact on our marine life for a few years now. It’s been more noticeable for the last couple of years. We haven’t seen any belugas or seals along the coast of Chesterfield Inlet, which is not normal.”

Fewer marine animals and fish close to the community means that hunters have to travel further at greater expense.

Health researcher Sarah Newell from the University of Ottawa, who was also on the panel, outlined how this affects the community, whereby less country food means not only less to eat but also disrupts the social fabric through hunters having little or no country food to share.

She added that research shows that when Indigenous people harvest and consume country food more frequently, the more they describe themselves as being healthy.

Aggark added that harvesting provides a way to reduce poverty in a community where there’s not a lot of employment.

The hamlet has worked with WWF-Canada to identify measures to reduce the effects of shipping, such as having restrictions on where ships can anchor and how long they can wait in a particular area, and developing capacity to respond to oil spills.

Aggark explained how ships will sit at anchor in front of the community for over a week at a time, waiting to transfer goods to the next, smaller, ship that will head up the inlet towards Baker Lake.

He added that there’s another transfer point between Chesterfield Inlet and Baker Lake.

According to Aggark, if Chesterfield Inlet had a deep-sea port, “they can come into the community and offload on the port and they could load [goods] onto the smaller ships that go all the way up to Baker Lake, so there’s no more transferring in between. They can transfer right there.”

Will a marine protected area help the community?

Aggark expressed concern that the Department of Oceans and Fisheries’ proposed marine protected area around Southampton Island, which was announced on Aug. 26, 2019, would not permit Chesterfield Inlet to develop a deep-sea port and a small-craft harbour and, as the HTO wants, expand into scallop fishing, given the presence of scallops on the seabed identified by mapping done by the Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Government of Nunavut’s Fisheries and Sealing division.

“What I understand it meant was that if they put the MPA in play the way they said they want, it would prevent us from developing.”

Martine Giangioppi of World Wildlife Fund Canada, who is one of the researchers who has worked with the hamlet of Chesterfield Inlet, added that the boundaries for the “area of interest” are still preliminary, and have to be agreed upon by a co-development group, consisting of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, the HTAs of Chesterfield Inlet and Coral Harbour, the DFO and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

“Those areas can all be negotiated,” she said. “An MPA adjacent to the community could be beneficial for the community, as long as the community agrees on the boundaries.”

At this point, said Aggark, the community is waiting to hear more from the DFO.

This story was updated to say that the mapping that identified the presence of scallops on the seabed was carried out by the Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Government of Nunavut’s Fisheries and Sealing division, as opposed to the Marine Institute and the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Kivallirmiut on

    This would be a great opportunity for Igluligaarjuk and Kivalliq.
    Never know, it could bring up other opportunities in the future.

  2. Posted by Paul on

    At least this work of the previious Mayor Simionie Sammurtok is being carried on by the new Mayor. This has great potential to develop an economy and have environmental issues mitigated by less ship traffic affectin the Chesterfield Inlet surrounding land areas.

  3. Posted by Potential Economic Development Opportunity! on

    Wow! small remote community seeking sustainable to economic development in the Kivalliq Region; great potential opportunity in the region of Chesterfield Inlet.

  4. Posted by Local on

    For Paul’s comment
    This issue of deep sea port had started way before Simionie became major. 😊
    Just so everyone knows 😉

  5. Posted by Skeptic on

    A lot of leaps of logic here:
    1. there is a decline in marine mammals
    2. the decline is caused by ship traffic
    3. a port will somehow address the ship traffic sufficiently to reverse the decline in marine mammals
    I hope Baker Lake speaks up about this proposal that would seriously complicate (and almost certainly increase the cost of) their sealift.
    Are we really entertaining the idea of spending tens of millions of dollars to build a port in a community of 450 souls?
    Rankin Inlet should also speak up – that’s where any port in the Kivalliq should be.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      If the road from conecting the kivalliq communities is built then Chester might make sense to have the Port. spread the jobs around and then sealift for the mines, Baker, Chester and maybe even some of Rankin stuff could be droped there and transported by truck.

      Although that road will really disrupt the caribou… so maybe not a good idea. With development choices are going to have to be made as to what wildlife will be impacted… and there may be time we dont even get the choice.

      • Posted by Not even on

        Spreading jobs around is the kind of idea that sounds good on paper. In reality logistics would have the goods being shipped to Rankin or Baker, closer to their end use. Cheaper and more efficient.

  6. Posted by Lets Develop Infrastructure in Chester! on

    This will be ideal since Chester is central between Baker Lake, Rankin, Repulse, and ice free season is much faster than any other community in the region. Lets development infrastructure to support economic development, employment, and training opportunity in that community! Great potential! Access Road development between Chester and Rankin already priority lists, and small craft harbour in planning process. Lets build Deep Sea Port and Small Craft Harbour in Chesterfield Inlet! Hands-up say, Yes!!

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    It is disturbing to me that a community has to work with non government groups on these issues.

    If you look way back to the 2000 Keewatin Land Use Plan, DFO, NPC, NIRB, KivIA, GN, and the Nunavut Marine Council was specifically required to work with Chesterfield on these things. DFO was even meant to study and recommend specific shipping practices for larger vessels that it has full authority to regulate.

    This is quite different than DFO’s tune now focused on making a marine protected area when it suits them to meet their national conservation goals. Incredibly, DFO’s initiative even goes against the local desire to start shellfish harvesting.

    20 years on, the Keewatin (Kivalliq) plan is not updated, no Nunavut Land Use Plan, and Chesterfield left in the dark apparently by many of the agencies made responsible for managing marine shipping to limit impacts on harvesters knowing years ago that development would happen. Now that development has happened, the original land use plan seems to be not worth the paper it was written on.

    Of course Chesterfield went to Universities and WWF to try to get traction on these things. Their governments and institutions of public government have failed them.

    What a sad reflection on government regulation and our co-management regime.

  8. Posted by Let’s Develop Infrastructure, Training & Employment on

    There are many implications when fundatmetal projects introduced are reasonable in smaller communities but only becomes a little burden due to certain executives or DM’s administering in all levels of flakey decisions, basically with the land claims structure where it was set and introduced by previous consultants, and legal counsels from 80’s and 90’s before land claims was establish. Which stands as status quo,
    as long small communities get peanut funds and programs that is not relevant to infrastructure, training of employment opportunitiy. This will continue to role back and forth in cycle with burden to try and work with DIO’s, GN, DFO, and Federal Programs where they may continue to create subjects that is not relevant to infrastructure, as long as other bigger municipalities gets priority!

    However, changes will eventually need to be approach to develop infrastructure, training and employment opportunities in smaller Municipalities such as Chesterfield Inlet!

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