Sound Man­age­ment

At the east­ern en­trance to the newly nav­i­ga­ble North­west Pas­sage, a planned marine con­ser­va­tion area will pro­tect a frag­ile ecosys­tem. It could be a model for the en­tire planet

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS - By Kat Eschner

A new marine con­ser­va­tion area in Lan­caster Sound aims to pro­tect the “Serengeti of the Arc­tic.” Will it?

The Cana­dian and Nu­navut gov­ern­ments and In­dige­nous stake­hold­ers re­cently an­nounced the cre­ation of the coun­try’s big­gest marine pro­tected area in Lan­caster Sound, known to the Inuit who have re­lied on its bounty since time im­memo­rial as Tal­lu­ru­tiup Imanga. The pro­tected area will be al­most 110,000 square kilo­me­tres in size. The pro­posed Tal­lu­ru­tiup Imanga/lan­caster Sound na­tional marine con­ser­va­tion area is cur­rently be­ing ne­go­ti­ated between the gov­ern­ments of Canada and Nu­navut and the Qik­iq­tani Inuit As­so­ci­a­tion. Those ne­go­ti­a­tions will hope­fully be com­pleted by March 2019, with en­force­ment for the pro­tected area go­ing into place shortly af­ter. It will shel­ter vul­ner­a­ble Arc­tic species — but that’s not its only func­tion. Here’s a big­ger look at what’s hap­pen­ing and who’s in­volved.

The Re­gion

The Arc­tic ice might look bar­ren, but it’s teem­ing with life. This re­gion is some­times known as the Serengeti of the Arc­tic be­cause of all the an­i­mals and plants that live there. The bio­di­ver­sity, which in­cludes species that the Inuit hunt for food, such as bel­u­gas and harp seals, led Inuit politi­cians to be­gin ad­vo­cat­ing for pro­tected sta­tus for the re­gion as far back as the 1970s. Arc­tic sci­en­tists agree: though there is some de­bate about the use­ful­ness of marine re­serves, given the rec­og­nized im­por­tance of this re­gion, mak­ing it an area of spe­cial con­cern can have real value.

Tal­lu­ru­tiup Imanga is home to iconic species cov­ered else­where in this is­sue of Cana­dian Wildlife, like the po­lar bear, but it’s also an im­por­tant re­gion for many oth­ers. It’s cru­cial for ocean-dwellers like nar­whals and bow­head whales, who make use of the sea­sonal polynyas — large ice-free patches of ocean. Sev­enty-five per cent of the world’s nar­whal pop­u­la­tion re­lies on this site, for in­stance. The pro­posed new pro­tected area in­cludes breed­ing grounds for seabirds like the black-legged kit­ti­wake and thick-billed murre: in to­tal, about one-third of east­ern Cana­dian seabirds breed in this re­gion.

Mak­ing this re­gion into a pro­tected zone will pre­vent oil and gas de­vel­op­ment and help pro­tect the area from the po­ten­tial im­pacts of the open­ing of the North­west Pas­sage. As part of the agree­ment, a mora­to­rium — rather than a ban — has been placed on oil and gas de­vel­op­ment, as well as min­er­als ex­plo­ration. When an agree­ment is reached, that mora­to­rium will be­come per­ma­nent. Al­though com­mer­cial fish­ing will be pro­hib­ited and other ac­tiv­ity will be reg­u­lated, the res­i­dents of Res­o­lute Bay, Arc­tic Bay and Pond In­let will all con­tinue their tra­di­tional hunt­ing and fish­ing in the pro­tected area.

“This area is the cul­tural heart of the re­gion; these wa­ters thriv­ing with marine life have sup­ported the lives of Inuit since time im­memo­rial,” P.J. Akeeagok, pres­i­dent of the Qik­iq­tani Inuit As­so­ci­a­tion, told Cana­dian Ge­o­graphic in Au­gust 2017 when the pro­posed pro­tected area’s bound­aries were an­nounced.

The Stake­hold­ers

Three gov­ern­men­tal bod­ies are work­ing on the agree­ments that will shape the pro­tected area: the fed­eral govern­ment, the govern­ment of Nu­navut, and the Qik­iq­tani Inuit As­so­ci­a­tion. Al­though their an­nounce­ment last Au­gust was a state­ment of prin­ci­ple, one ma­jor doc­u­ment must be drafted and signed be­fore the pro­tected area can be for­mally es­tab­lished: an Inuit im­pact and ben­e­fit agree­ment.

The five com­mu­ni­ties that make up the Qik­iq­tani Inuit are all part of con­sul­ta­tions on this agree­ment, which legally has to be signed be­fore the pro­tected area can be cre­ated. This is a test case for re­la­tions between the three gov­ern­ments — lo­cal, ter­ri­to­rial and fed­eral — in Nu­navut, which is gov­erned by dif­fer­ent laws about con­sul­ta­tion than the rest of the coun­try. And though the planned dead­line for the agree­ment is less than a year away, there’s a lot to work on.

When the plan was an­nounced, fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine Mckenna was quoted in a govern­ment press re­lease as say­ing, “We are im­ple­ment­ing a sen­si­ble and in­te­grated plan that will sus­tain bio­di­ver­sity and sus­tain tra­di­tional ways of life.” But there’s a def­i­nite ten­sion between the three gov­ern­ments. The fed­eral govern­ment main­tains it wants to work on the agree­ment with Nu­navut and lo­cal govern­ment, who will “par­tic­i­pate” in ad­min­is­ter­ing it. But rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Qik­iq­tani Inuit As­so­ci­a­tion say their par­tic­i­pa­tion should go far­ther. In De­cem­ber, at a con­fer­ence in Toronto, QIA chief ne­go­tia­tor San­dra Inu­tiq said, “What we’re en­vi­sion­ing is for Inuit to fully man­age and con­trol the con­ser­va­tion area.” The

These wa­ters, thriv­ing with marine life, have sup­ported the Inuit since time im­memo­rial

com­mu­ni­ties of 3,600 to­tal peo­ple who live around the area and rely on it for tra­di­tional foods and other prod­ucts have the big­gest in­ter­est in its well-be­ing, she says, and know it best.

The fed­eral govern­ment, though, has other con­cerns. Though the an­nounce­ment of this pro­posed pro­tected area has had po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit for the cur­rent govern­ment, it’s also true that its es­tab­lish­ment has im­por­tant con­se­quences for Arc­tic sovereignty. Like the hunt for the Franklin Ex­pe­di­tion ships be­fore it, part of the govern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion now on some­thing that the res­i­dents of the Baf­fin Is­land re­gion have been ag­i­tat­ing for since the 1970s is re­lated to the in­creased at­ten­tion to main­tain­ing Cana­dian con­trol of the Arc­tic.

The fed­eral govern­ment has shown it is will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate: when the agree­ment was an­nounced last Au­gust, the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice also signed a whole-of-govern­ment agree­ment, which means that dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, all cab­i­net mem­bers will be in­volved. Hope­fully, this means that every­one from Mckenna to the fish­eries and oceans min­is­ter can come to an agree­ment, cut­ting down on red tape.

The Arc­tic

Al­though the pro­tected area will be the largest one in Canada, it’s only part of the uni­ver­sally vul­ner­a­ble Cana­dian Arc­tic. From a con­ser­va­tion stand­point, its cre­ation will be a pos­i­tive step, but there are still many ques­tions.

Among these is the ques­tion of fund­ing, which re­mains to be an­nounced af­ter the Inuit im­pact and ben­e­fit agree­ment is signed. Inu­tiq said ear­lier this year that ad­min­is­trat­ing the pro­tected area could help bring eco­nomic well-be­ing to the com­mu­ni­ties that rely on it, which suf­fer from in­fras­truc­tural is­sues like prob­lems with ac­cess to in­ter­net and have high un­em­ploy­ment rates. The Inuit im­pact and ben­e­fit agree­ment could help se­cure op­por­tu­ni­ties for the re­gion and em­power peo­ple to take ac­tion.

Con­ser­va­tion sci­ence is also evolv­ing as the Arc­tic is chang­ing: new re­search about pol­lu­tion, ship move­ments and Arc­tic species is com­ple­ment­ing tra­di­tional knowl­edge, demon­strat­ing that we’re in a crit­i­cal time for Arc­tic biomes. Get­ting this con­ser­va­tion area right — for both the Inuit and the nat­u­ral world — is more im­por­tant than ever.1


“THE SERENGETI OF THE ARC­TIC” A flock of ei­der ducks (So­ma­te­ria mol­lis­sima) over Lan­caster Sound

A hunter trav­els the coast­line; a bow­head whale (Balaena mys­tice­tus) un­der the ice LIFE ABOVE AND BE­LOW

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