Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area

Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area (NWA) was established in 1995 to protect seabirds and marine mammals in the area, supported by the regional and national Inuit associations.


The Nirjutiqarvik NWA is located around 20 kilometres (km) off the southern tip of Ellesmere Island. The NWA includes:

  • Coburg Island
  • Princess Charlotte Monument
  • all the nearby water within a 10 km radius

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

The NWA's steep coastal cliffs offer ideal nesting habitat for large numbers of seabirds. It supports a nesting colony of around 385,000 seabirds, mainly:

  • thick-billed murres (11% of canadian breeding population)
  • black-legged kittiwakes (contains 16% of canada's breeding population)

Other birds that nest on Princess Charlotte Monument Island include:

  • northern fulmars
  • glaucous gulls
  • black guillemots
  • Atlantic puffins

Also important for nesting colonies is a polynya near Coburg Island. A polynya is an open body of water surrounded by ice. Located off the east coast of Coburg Island these open water areas persist all year-round. The waters provide seabirds with rich supplies of fish and crustaceans, especially in the spring. Although a separate feature for some months, the Coburg Island’s polynya joins the North Water polynya, the largest reoccurring one in the Arctic.

Beluga whale
Beluga whale

The marine waters within and around the NWA also provide important feeding ground for a variety of marine mammals including:

  • polar bears
  • walrus
  • beluga
  • narwhal
  • ringed, bearded and harp seals

More information on Nirjutiqarvik 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. Nirjutiqarvik NWA is managed by partnerships with:

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Nirjutiqarvik Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Grise Fiord, Nunavut

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

Access to the 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 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

    Map showing the area around Colberg Island in Baffin Bay, Nunavut. The boundaries of Nirjutiqarvik NWA area indicated. The protected area covers Colberg Island and a portion of the surrounding waters. It is located to the south-east 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 in Canada.

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

Summary table

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:

  • thick-billed murres
  • black-legged kittiwakes
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)
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



Main threats and challenges

An increase of:

Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage None except for Nunavut beneficiaries and people with appropriate permits

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 - Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
Eastern Arctic Unit
P. O. Box 1714
Iqaluit, Nunavut
X0A 0H0

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

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