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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Foxe Basin

The Water

Foxe Basin is a broad, predominantly shallow depression, generally less than 100 m in depth, while to the south, depths of up to 400 m occur. The tidal range decreases from 5 m in the southeast to less than 1 m in the northwest. During much of the year landfast ice dominates in the north, while pack ice prevails towards the south. Foxe Basin itself is rarely ice-free until September, open pack ice being common throughout the summer. Vigorous tidal currents and strong winds keep the ice pack in constant motion and contribute to the numerous polynyas and shore leads which are found throughout the region. This same motion, combined with the high sediment content of The Water makes the sea ice of Foxe Basin dark and rough, easily distinguishable from other ice in the Canadian Arctic.

The Coast

The terrain is rocky and rugged in the southern half of the region, and generally low-lying in the north. High cliffs are found across the southern portion of the region, where most of the seabirds nest. Coastal marshes and tidal flats up to 6.5 km in width are found in the vast lowland section of eastern Foxe Basin, as well as in the bays of Southampton Island.

The Wildlife

This is one of the little known areas of the Canadian Arctic, though it is proving to be biologically rich and diverse. The numerous polynyas in northern Foxe Basin support high densities of bearded seals and the largest walrus herd in Canada (over 6000 individuals). Ringed seal and polar bear are common, with north Southampton Island one of the highest density polar bear denning areas in Canada. This area is also an important summering area for bowhead whales, beluga and narwhal. Both bowhead whales and beluga winter in The Waters of northeastern Hudson Bay. The region is the main North American stronghold of the Sabine's gull, with some 10,000 pairs nesting here. Moderate numbers of black guillemots, Arctic terns and glaucous, herring and ivory gulls also breed here. The Great Plain of the Koukdjuak on Baffin Island is the world's largest goose nesting colony, with upwards of 1.5 million birds, 75 percent of which are lesser snow geese and the remainder Canada geese and brant. Shorebirds and ducks are also abundant. Several hundred thousand thick-billed murres breed on the cliffs of Digges Sound and Coates Island to the south.


This region is not yet represented in the national marine conservation areas system. Studies to identify preliminary representative marine areas have yet to be undertaken. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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