Planning underway to protect Canada’s High Arctic Basin

Agreement looks to create new marine protected area in Nunavut

Canada’s High Arctic Basin is an area north of Grise Fiord, known in Inuktitut as Tuvaijuittuq, which means “the ice never melts.” As Arctic sea ice continues to melt, Tuvaijuittuq may offer a last refuge to species dependent upon it, such as polar bears, beluga whales, narwhals and seals. (Image courtesy of the Government of Canada)

By Nunatsiaq News

The federal government has signed an agreement with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to work together to protect the High Arctic Basin—an area north of Grise Fiord known in Inuktitut as Tuvaijuittuq, which means “the ice never melts.”

The memorandum of understanding spells out how the parties “agree to assess the feasibility of creating marine protected areas within Tuvaijuittuq, and which may include interim protection measures,” according to a news release.

“This work will look at the social, environmental, and economic benefits of creating marine protected areas in this region, giving full consideration to the Nunavut Agreement and the Nunavut Act.”

As Arctic sea ice continues to melt, Tuvaijuittuq may offer a last refuge for ice-dependent species, such as polar bears, beluga whales, narwhals and seals.

Tuvaijuittuq is also home to North America’s last remaining ice shelves. The massive Ellesmere ice shelf once stood 100 metres thick and added roughly 9,000 square kilometres to the Ellesmere Island’s coast. But, during the 20th century, it dwindled in size and broke into six separate pieces.

Last month’s federal budget made an earlier mention of plans to explore the potential creation of a new High Arctic marine conservation area.

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