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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Canada's Arctic Marine Environment


Arctic WestArctic East
Map showing Park Canada’s 9 Arctic marine regions used in the context of its national marine conservation areas program
© Parks Canada, 1996


Three beluga at surface of water as observed from the air
© Parks Canada

The Arctic coast stretches 165,000 km, encompassing 68% of Canada's ocean coastline.

Coastline varies from steep fjords to cliffs and headlands, gently rolling lowlands, wide tidal flats, estuaries, deltas and permanent ice fields.

Tides vary widely from one end of the Arctic to the other, being generally less than 0.5 m in the north and west, increasing to 1-5 m to the east and south.

Ice, the dominant feature in Arctic marine ecosystems, continuously sculpts the coastal landscape and acts as a major limiting factor to all biological activity. Except during the brief summer season, the Arctic is covered in various combinations of landfast and pack ice. Polynyas and shore leads play a crucial role during this time and are biological "hotspots". Even in the warmest months, the surface water temperature is barely above freezing.


Composite image showing, on the left, a female polar bear and two cubs, and on the right, thick-billed murres at a colony
© Parks Canada / Wayne Lynch / Francine Mercier
Arctic Basin Arctic Archipelago Beaufort Sea Queen Maud Gulf Landcaster Sound Baffin Island Shelf Foxe Basin Hudson Bay James Bay Arctic Basin Arctic Archipelago Queen Maud Gulf
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