Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area

Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area (NWA), in Nunavut, supports significant populations of seabirds and provides important feeding grounds for marine mammals.  Nirjutiqarvik is the Inuktitut word for “the place of animals.”


Nirjutiqarvik NWA is located in eastern Jones Sound approximately 20 km off the southern tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. It includes Coburg Island, Princess Charlotte Monument and all the water within a 10 km radius of the island.  The NWA is 1,642 km² in size and was designated in 1995, for the protection and conservation of seabirds and marine mammals. Its steep coastal cliffs provide ideal nesting habitat for  approximately 385,000 seabirds, including 11% and 16% of the Canadian breeding population of Thick-Billed Murres and Black-Legged Kittiwakes respectively. It is one of few known breeding sites in the Arctic for Atlantic Puffin and hosts several other species of birds such as:

  • northern fulmar
  • glaucous gull
  • black guillemot
  • common eider
  • long-tailed ducks

An important feature of the area is a recurrent polynya south of Coburg Island in Lady Ann Strait. The open water persists year-round and provides seabirds with rich supplies of fish and crustaceans, especially in the spring. Although a separate feature for several months, this polynya joins the Pikialasorsuaq (North Water Polynya), the largest reoccurring polynya in the Arctic for a portion of the year.

In addition to providing seabirds and seaducks with important feeding grounds both during and outside the breeding season, the marine waters included in and surrounding the NWA provide feeding grounds for many marine mammals, including polar bear, walrus, beluga, narwhal and seals.

Beluga whale
Beluga whale

The plentiful wildlife in the NWA make it a special place for Inuit from the closest community, Grise Fiord (approximately 100 km away), who harvest much of their food from the sea.

Coburg Island is part of the Davis Highlands and consists primarily of upland Canadian Shield terrain with coastal lowlands in the northwest. Approximately 65% of the island is covered in glaciers and ice fields. The rest is rugged, mountainous highlands with peaks reaching over 800 meters above sea level. Princess Charlotte Monument is similarly steep and rocky.

Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area. Photo: Garry Donaldson

Find more information on Nirjutiqarvik 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.

Nirjutiqarvik NWA is managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Inuit from Grise Fiord, NU as part of a co-management agreement established through the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Nunavut Settlement Area (IIBA). The Nirjutiqarvik 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 NA). Access to Nirjtuqarvik NWA by anyone other than Inuit enrolled under the NA is restricted; therefore, any non-Nunavut Inuit must obtain a permit to access or conduct any activity within the Nirjutiqarvik 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 Nirjutiqarvik NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Nirjutiqarvik NWA
  • Long description

    This map shows the area around Coburg Island in Baffin Bay, Nunavut. The boundaries of the Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area area indicated. The protected area covers Coburg Island and a portion of the surrounding waters. It is located to the southeast of Ellesmere Island and the Glacier Strait and the north east of Lady Ann Strait. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water and intertidal water are indicated on the map. 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 for Nirjutiqarvik NWA
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 75º50' North / 79º25'West
Size 178,328 ha
Reason for creation of protected area Contains more than 10% of the Canadian breeding population of:
Date created (Gazetted) 1995 - Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) Management Category Wilderness Area (Ib)
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species
Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Birds:


Main habitat type Mostly marine habitat with a terrestrial portion consisting of:
  • precambrian granitic gneiss
  • granulite-facies sedimentary and volcanic rocks
  • glaciers
Invasive species None recorded
Other species Birds:


Main threats and challenges An increase of:
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Other protected area initiatives
  • Military activity
  • Mineral/hydrocarbon exploration
  • Research
  • Tourism
  • Shipping/marine transport
  • Climate change
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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