Dion urged to create bowhead sanctuary

Clyde River seen as great eco-tourism site


When he visits Nunavut next week, federal environment minister Stéphane Dion may make a move towards declaring Isabella Bay a bowhead whale sanctuary.

That’s what Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the members of Clyde River’s Igaliqtuuq Steering Committee and Naluaqtaliq Corp. want.

In 1992, Clyde River first voted to go ahead with the Isabella Bay whale sanctuary, which is known as Igaliqtuuq in Inuktitut.

Protecting the coastal region from future development was the main rationale behind the proposed sanctuary, but Clyde River has also identified potential economic benefits for the community, such as the development of whale-watching and eco-tourism tours.

For the past few years, however, the establishment of Igaliqtuuq has been held up by talks over what benefits the Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement should contain.

Cash has been the main stumbling block because budgets for protected areas are generally small, and unlike national parks, their emphasis is on wildlife conservation, not recreation.

“Political muscle is needed to complete the IIBA,” according to a recent NTI news release, which asks Dion to give “urgent political direction” for the IIBA to be signed off.

The IIBA has been hung up a final point on the indexation of any cash payments made to Inuit in exchange for the creation of the sanctuary.

Up to 300 bowheads come to Isabella Bay every year in mid-July where they feed and mate in the bay’s protected, plankton-rich waters.

When Dion visits Qikiqtarjuaq, he may also make some announcement about the Qaqulluit and Akpait National Wildlife Areas, which will protect two bird species, the Northern fulmar and the thick-billed murre.

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