Feasibility Assessment for the Proposed Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area

Study Area

Northern fulmars
Northern fulmars
© Parks Canada / I.K. Macneil

Lancaster Sound, an area of great diversity and significance

Lancaster Sound bordered by dramatic cliffs and spectacular fjords is the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, the legendary corridor through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. This is one of the richest marine mammal areas in the world. Most of the world's narwhal and a third of North America's belugas, as well as the endangered eastern population of bowhead whales, spend the summer in these waters and many of these whales winter in the North Water Polynya in Baffin Bay. Ringed and bearded seals are common residents in most of the region, while walrus tend to concentrate around the major polynyas. Polynyas ensure the presence of open water throughout the year and are generally created by upwelling which is generated by different elements such as: complex bottom topography, changes in water depth and a tidal range of up to 2 m in the sound. Polynyas are an important source of nutrients and food for marine organisms.

Some 20,000-50,000 harp seals spend the summer in these waters. This region also has one of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. About one-third of Eastern Canada's colonial seabirds breed and feed in Lancaster Sound, including more than 700,000 pairs of thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes and northern fulmars. There are also several thousand pairs of black guillemots, Arctic terns, and glaucous, Iceland and ivory gulls. Large colonies of greater snow geese are located in the region.

Human occupation and use of the Lancaster Sound region can be traced back to the Dorset (500 BC-1500 AD) and Thule cultures (About 1000 AD until approximately 1500 AD) that preceded Inuit for whom the region is now home. European exploration for the Northwest Passage brought several expeditions to the region, including the fabled Franklin expedition. Remnants of whaling and trading posts at a number of locations along the shores of the region are evidence of later whaling and trading activities.

Where is the Study Area?