NTI confirms IIBA for conservation areas

Long-awaited bowhead sanctuary near Clyde will go forward


Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. confirmed last week that three new wildlife areas, including a long-awaited bowhead whale sanctuary at Isabella Bay near Clyde River, are now ready to move forward.

That’s because NTI negotiators have finished a deal that was first announced this past October at the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s general meeting in Iqaluit: an $8.3 million umbrella agreement-in-principle covering Inuit impacts and benefits related to federal wildlife areas and bird sanctuaries.

“I’m happy for the people who live close to the bowhead whale sanctuary. I think this is one that that’s been on for years and years and I think this is the first of its kind in the world,” said James Eetoolook, NTI’s first vice president.

The people of Clyde River, with help from the World Wildlife Fund, have been lobbying for the creation of a protected area at Isabella Bay for more than 20 years.

Peter Ewins of the World Wildife Fund said his organization has spent more than $1 million over the past 20 years helping Clyde River lobby for the whale sanctuary.

“I’m delighted that things have got almost to the finishing post,” Ewins said.

But Ewins said there are still many small steps that the government must take to complete the process, and that there is still potential for delay.

“It’s still a question of when, not if,” Ewins said.

About 300 bowheads arrive in Isabella Bay every July to mate and feed in the bay’s plankton-rich waters. The community hopes to develop whale-watching and eco-tourism activities in connection with the new whale sanctuary.

For many years the proposed name for the new area was “Igaliqtuuq.” But after more consultation with the people of Clyde River, it will now be called the “Niginganiq National Wildlife Area.”

The two new national wildlife areas near Qikiqtarjuaq will be called the Qaqulluit National Wildife Area (Cape Searle), and the Akpait National Wildlife Area.

As is suggested by their names, the Qaqulluit area will protect fulmars, and the Akpait area will protect murres.

Eetoolook said the agreement, three years in the making, represents a hard-won compromise. He hopes the Canadian Wildlife Service will hold up its end of the deal.

“It shows that the Inuit can be conservationists, and have been for years and years and years,” Eeotoolook said.

Eetoolook said the harvesting rights of Inuit, as guaranteed within the Nunavut land claim agreement, are protected within wildlife areas and bird sanctuaries.

And through their regional associations, Inuit will control large tracts of Inuit-owned land that lie within or adjacent to the boundaries of wildlife areas.

This means that the Canadian Wildlife Service, when deciding whether to allow activities on Inuit-owned lands that lie within these wildlife areas, must take into account the objectives of the affected community and region, and the economic importance to Inuit.

Eetoolook says, however, that when these particular Inuit-owned lands were selected by the affected Inuit communities, it was for the purpose of conservation.

This means that if a mineral prospecting firm were to apply for a permit to operate on these Inuit lands, the chances are very high that Inuit would not support it, he said.

The agreement, to be signed later this year after approval by Parliament and Treasury Board, will remove the last impediment towards creation of the three long-awaited new wildlife areas:

* Niginganiq National Wild­life Area (near Clyde River, covering the summer feeding area for bowhead whales at Isabella Bay that until recently was known as “Igaliq­tuuq”);
* Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area (also known as Cape Searle, near Qikiqtarjuaq);
* Akpait National Wildlife Area (near Qikiqtarjuaq).

It also covers 10 existing protected areas, most of which were created many years ago:

* 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).

The $8.3 million in funding, which will come from the federal government, breaks down like this:

* $4 million for tourism and other business benefits;
* $1.8 million for co-management committees;
* $115,000 for a co-management secretariat at NTI;
* $1 million for heritage and interpretive material;
* $600,000 in connection with the proposed wildlife areas near Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq;
* $280,000 to hire Inuit summer students;
* $400,000 to hire Inuit field assistants;
* $25,000 in compensation for emergency, illegal or accidental polar bear or grizzly bear kills ($5,000 per bear).

Of that $8.3 million, NTI will manage $5.6 million of it: the $4-million tourism business fund, the $1 million heritage fund, and the $600,000 for Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq.

The Canadian Wildlife Service will hold $2.7 million, to pay the cost of running are co-management committees, hiring summer students, hiring research assistants and compensating affected HTOs for emergency bear kills.

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