In the face of rapidly encroaching climate change and the destruction of artic habitats, Canada has taken steps to protect its wildlife by creating ocean sanctuaries in at-risk areas.
The largest sanctuary, named the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area, is located just off Ellesmere Island in Nunavut – one of the last remaining areas on earth where the ice is so thick it doesn’t melt in the height of an arctic summer. Tuvaijuittuq is in fact the Inuit name for ‘the place where the ice never melts’ – and although the sanctuaries cannot reverse global warming, they do hope to preserve this hugely valuable habitat. If successful, they will ensure that ice-dwelling animals still have a place to live, breed and hunt during the summer months – something that is essential now that rising temperatures mean that their usual homes are melting fast.
Covering 165,000 square miles (427,000 square kilometers), the sanctuaries ensure that no fishing, mining or drilling activity will take place in these areas – preserving them for local wildlife including arctic foxes, walruses, narwhals and polar bears. The new plans do however protect Inuit practices, permitting them to hunt and move through the regions, and also allow scientific research to continue – as both have been judged to have minimal impact on the landscape.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said, ‘this remote region has the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice continues to decline in the Arctic, the ice in this region is expected to last the longest. This makes the area a unique and potentially important future summer habitat”.
The creation of the ocean sanctuaries is one of many initiatives being taken around the world to try and combat the combined damage of melting ice caps and invasive industry, and create a more sustainable future for local species, as well as for our planet as a whole.
Canadian politician Paul Okalik said, “this deal will turn Tuvaijuittuq into one of the world’s largest conservation areas, while also supporting local food security, infrastructure and employment needs.”