Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'An Incredible Place:' Ottawa, Inuit to Protect Vast New Arctic Marine Area

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'An Incredible Place:' Ottawa, Inuit to Protect Vast New Arctic Marine Area

Article excerpt

Ottawa, Inuit to protect vast new marine area

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Ottawa and Inuit groups say they've reached a deal on a vast new marine protected area in Canada's Arctic that will directly benefit the people living there.

The agreement makes the waters north of Baffin Island -- more than 100,000 square kilometres of some of the richest and most productive seas in the North -- one step closer to becoming Canada's largest protected area.

"This is about the people," said P.J. Akeeagok of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, who signed the deal Tuesday in Grise Fiord, Nunavut, with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna -- the same day an American study called Canada a conservation leader in North America.

Formerly called Lancaster Sound, it is now Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.

Its cliff-studded coastline is laced with bays, inlets and deep fiords. Most of the world's narwhal, as well as large numbers of beluga and bowhead whales, swim amongst its bobbing icebergs.

Rich habitat for seals and walrus attracts numerous polar bears. Seabirds flock there in the millions.

Inuit have fought to protect the area since the 1960s. In 2009, they went to court to block seismic tests that would have assessed the area's oil and gas potential.

"It's an incredible place, incredibly important habitat," said McKenna. "It's also an incredibly important place for Inuit."

The deal includes jobs as guardians for Inuit in the five Nunavut communities near the area.

The communities also will get their first small-craft harbours to allow people to safely dock and disembark. The deal includes promises of mobile food processing facilities to support local hunters and increase the amount of food they can provide for their communities.

"The potential for Inuit to truly create an economy out of nutritious country food is a game-changer," said Akeeagok. …

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