Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area

Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area (NWA) provides important habitat for wildlife, especially Bowhead whales, and is an important cultural area that links the past and present of Inuit in Nunavut.



Ninginganiq NWA was established in 2010 with the primary intent of protecting the marine habitat of the Bowhead whale. It is the largest NWA in Canada, measuring over 336,200 hectares (ha) consisting of approximately 53,000 ha of land and 283,200 ha of marine habitat. The Inuktitut word "Ninginganiq" translates roughly as "the place where fog sits."

The NWA is located on the east coast of Baffin Island, approximately 100 km south-southeast of the community of Clyde River, Nunavut. The area includes the shoreline and islands of Isabella Bay and the adjacent ocean out to 12 nautical miles from shore.  Ninginganiq NWA contains many important cultural sites, including historical Inuit settlements and 19th century European whaling artifacts.

Seascape view of Ninginganiq
Ninginganiq  NWA - Nuvuttiapik (Cape Raper)

The interaction of ocean currents and wind with the shallow inshore banks and deep offshore troughs of Ninginganiq create ideal feeding habitat for Bowhead whales. The Bowhead whales of Ninginganiq NWA belong to the Eastern Canada-West Greenland population. Bowheads are generally present in Ninginganiq from late August until early October, although they can be present as early as May or as late as November. The first arrivals are large adolescents that spend most of their time on Isabella Bank, where they rest, groom, and engage in social activity. Adults arrive in late August and into September and spend considerable time feeding in the offshore troughs. Numbers of Bowheads using Ninginganiq NWA varies annually with wind, current, and ice conditions, however, up to 147 individuals have been observed using the bay at one time. This is the largest concentration of Bowhead whales observed anywhere in Canada.

Bowhead whale swimming
Bowhead whale

Ninginganiq NWA also supports other wildlife such as:

Find more information on the Ninginganiq NWA 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 wildlife 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 other activities are prohibited in all NWAs. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section.

Ninginganiq is managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Inuit from Clyde River, NU as part of a co-management agreement establsihed through The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Nunavut Settlement Area (IIBA). The Ninginganiq Area Co-Management Committee (ACMC) was formed through the IIBA and provides advice on all aspects of NWA management and all significant policy decisions affecting the NWA, including Inuit use of the NWA, permit applications, research conducted within the NWA, visitor use of the area, and management and protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

In Nunavut, Nunavut Inuit, as per the Nunavut Agreement (NA), can hunt wildlife, including the collection of migratory bird eggs and feathers, for their economic, social, and cultural needs (Section 5 of the Nunavut Agreement). Access to Ninginganiq NWA by anyone other than Inuit enrolled under the Nunavut Agreement is restricted; therefore, any non- Nunavut Inuit must obtain a permit to access or conduct any activity within Ninginganiq NWA. Activities that may be permitted will be in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan (currently in press).

More information on access and permitting for Ninginganiq NWA 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

This map shows the area around Aulitivik Island including a portion of Baffin Island and Baffin Bay in Nunavut. The boundaries of Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area are indicated. The NWA includes the shoreline and islands of Isabella Bay and the adjacent ocean out to 12 nautical miles from shore The scale on the map is in kilometers. A small inset national map situates the NWA’s location in Canada.

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

Summary table

Summary table Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 69°37' North / 67°00' West
Size 336,200 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 Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Keystone or flagship species bowhead whale
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Birds:


Main habitat type Marine
Faunistic and floristic importance
  • Area supports the largest known concentration of Bowhead Whales (Balaena mysticetus) in Canada.
  • Area provides unique feeding and resting habitat for Bowhead Whales.
  • Area provides habitat for species listed under SARA (Polar Bear, Peregrine Falcon, Ivory Gull, Ross’s Gull) and for many breeding and migrating birds.
Invasive species None recorded
Other species Birds:


Main threats and challenges
  • Increased ship traffic (tourism, shipping, fishing, etc.) and associated risks (pollution, noise, collision with wildlife, wildlife entanglement)
  • Climate change
  • Wildlife harvest (maintaining sustainable levels)
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Nunavut Inuit have a free and unrestricted right of access for the purpose of harvesting to all lands, waters, and marine areas within the NWA, as per Article 5 of the IIBA and subject to s.5.7.18 of the Nunavut Agreement.

For all non-Nunavut Inuit, a permit must be obtained to access or conduct any type of activity in the NWA.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page, any notice posted at the NWA site and the law, the law prevails.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
933 Mivvik Street, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 1870
Iqaluit, Nunavut
X0A 0H0

Telephone: 867-975-4642
Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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