Lancaster Sound Proposal
National Marine Conservation Areas
Map illustrating the nine marine regions in Canada’s Arctic Ocean © Parks Canada / Wayne Roach
In December 2009, Canada’s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the federal Minister of Health, the Acting President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the Minister of Environment for the Government of Nunavut (GN) announced the beginning of a feasibility assessment for the proposed establishment of a new national marine conservation area (NMCA) in Lancaster Sound.
One year later, on December 6, 2010, the federal Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Indian Affairs, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Health jointly announced the Government of Canada’s position on a potential future boundary for the NMCA and underscored the government’s commitment to protect the marine waters and wildlife of Lancaster Sound. The announced potential boundary encompasses of 44,300 sq km in Lancaster Sound as well as Eclipse Sound and provides the basis for community consultations and other steps that must now follow as part of the feasibility assessment. While these consultations take place, no exploration or development of petroleum resources will occur within the proposed boundaries.
Lancaster Sound (“Talluritup Tariunga” in Inuktitut) is the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, the legendary corridor through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. It is an area of critical ecological importance to marine mammals, including seals, narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales, as well as walrus and polar bears. It is bordered by some of the largest Arctic seabird breeding colonies whose populations total in the hundreds of thousands.
As it continues, the feasibility assessment will gather further information on the area’s natural and cultural resources, and it will study the potential economic and tourism impacts and benefits of a NMCA. Extensive local consultations will be undertaken. The study is expected to conclude with recommendations on whether to establish the proposed NMCA and under what conditions. If the parties agree that an NMCA should be established, an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement will have to be negotiated as the next step.
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. © Parks Canada / I.K. Macneil
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 whale, spend the summer in Lancaster’s waters. © Parks Canada/ Mario Cyr