Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area

The Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area (NWA), in Nunavut, is an important area for wildlife. Its marine habitat supports species such as the bowhead whale.


The Ninginganiq NWA was designated in 2010. It is the largest NWA in Canada measuring over 336,397 hectares (ha). The Inuktitut word "Ninginganiq" translates roughly as "the place where fog sits."

The NWA is located:

  • 120 kilometres (km) south of Clyde River
  • on the north-east coast of Baffin Island
Seascape view of Ninginganiq
Ninginganiq NWA - Aerial view

The NWA includes:

  • the shoreline and islands of Isabella Bay
  • adjacent ocean out to 12 nautical miles from shore

The Ninginganiq NWA provides important and ideal marine habitat for bowhead whales, due to:

  • an interplay of ocean and wind currents with the shallow banks off the coast of Isabella Bay
  • deep troughs further offshore
  • other ocean and wind currents

Up to 100 Bowheads have been recorded at one time in Isabella Bay. This is the single largest known concentration for this species anywhere in Canada. Some of the population, including cows and calves, move westward through Lancaster Sound in late June and early July. Others, mainly adults and large adolescents, remain off the east coast of Baffin Island for the summer and fall.

Bowhead whale swimming
Bowhead whale

The NWA also supports healthy populations of these species:

  • polar bears
  • ringed seals
  • king eiders
  • long-tailed duck
  • dovekies
  • northern fulmars
  • narwhal

More information on Ninginganiq NWA is provided in the summary table below.


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

In the Nunavut territory, Nunavut beneficiaries, as per the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA), can harvest wildlife for their economic, social and cultural needs (Article 5 of the NLCA). This includes collecting migratory bird eggs and feathers. Ninginganiq NWA  is managed by partnerships with:

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Ninginganiq Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Clyde River, Nunavut

This partnership is per the NLCA and Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for conservation areas.

Access to Ninginganiq NWA is restricted except for Nunavut beneficiaries. For all non-beneficiaries, a permit must be obtained to either access or conduct any type of activity in the NWA. Activities that may be permitted will be in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan (currently in development).

More information on access and permitting for can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

See long description below
Map of Ninginganiq NWA
Long description

Map showing the area around Aulitivik Island including a portion of Baffin Island and Baffin Bay in Nunavut. The boundaries of Ninginganiq NWA are indicated. The NWA covers Aulitivik Island as well as the water and shoreline of Baffin Island that surround it and it extends out into Baffin Bay. The scale on the map is in tens of kilometers. Permanent water is indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 69°37' North / 67°00' West
Size 336,397 ha
Reason for creation of protected area Contains nationally significant habitat for bowhead whales.
Date created (Gazetted) 2010 - Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Wilderness Area (Ib)
Additional designations None
Keystone or flagship species bowhead whale
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Main habitat type Mostly marine.
Faunistic and floristic importance Largest concentration of Bowhead Whales in Canada.
Invasive species None recorded
Other species Birds: Mammals:
Main threats and challenges An increase of:
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Nunavut beneficiaries and people with appropriate permits only.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails, as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas program
P. O. Box 1714
Iqaluit NU  X0A 0H0

Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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