Canada’s moves to protect vast Arctic area
More than 450,000 hectares around Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic have been designated as National Wildlife Areas, a move that will help protect threatened bowhead whales and other species.
The sanctuaries, announced Friday, are the end result of negotiations between the federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., three regional Inuit associations and the Nangmautaq Hunters and Trappers organization.
The announcement won praise from the WWF-Canada.
“Protecting the bowhead whales of Niginganiq has been a 26-year marathon effort”, said Mike Russill, CEO of WWF-Canada, in a release. “We are grateful to the people of Clyde River for their patience and persistence, and we thank the Government of Canada and Minister (John) Baird for their dedication and commitment in pushing this finally over the finish line.”
Each new area on Baffin Island provides an opportunity to protect unique and important habitat:
Niginganiq National Wildlife Area (Isabella Bay) – 336,200 hectares
This area, proposed by the community of Clyde River, includes important summer habitat for a population of bowhead whales that has been assessed as threatened in Canada. The bowhead whale is a large and powerful marine mammal that can break through ice over 20 cm thick with the crown of its head.
Akpait National Wildlife Area – 77,400 hectares
Akpait is an important area for a number of migratory birds including one of Canada’s largest Thick-billed Murre colonies. It is a nesting site for Black-legged Kittiwakes and a breeding ground for Glaucous Gulls and Black Guillemots. It is also home to polar bears, walruses and a variety of seal species.
Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area – 39,800 hectares
The area is home to Canada’s largest colony of Northern Fulmars (birds), representing an estimated 22 percent of the total Canadian population. There are also marine animals including the walrus and ringed seal.
Once an area has been designated as a National Wildlife Area, natural features integral to the site are protected from disturbance, and specific activities considered harmful to species or their habitats are prohibited. Management activities include monitoring wildlife, maintaining and improving wildlife habitat, conducting periodic inspections, enforcing regulations, maintaining facilities, and developing management plans.