Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area

Mountains and water
Photo : Garry Donaldson © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area.

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The Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area (NWA) Area was established in 1995. It is located approximately 20 kilometres (km) off the southern tip of Ellesmere Island. The NWA includes Coburg Island, Princess Charlotte Monument, and all the water within a 10 km radius. Coburg Island is part of the Davis Highlands and consists primarily of upland 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. The Nirjutiqavvik NWA was established to protect seabird colonies and marine mammal populations in the area, supported by the regional and national Inuit associations.

The Nirjutiqavvik NWA's steep coastal cliffs offer ideal nesting habitat for large numbers of seabirds. It supports a nesting colony of approximately 385,000 seabirds, predominantly Thick-billed Murres (11% of Canadian breeding population), and Black-legged Kittiwakes (contains 16% of Canada's breeding population). Northern Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Black Guillemots and Atlantic Puffins also nest on Princess Charlotte Monument Island. Also important for nesting colonies is a recurrent polynya, an area of open water, in the vicinity of Coburg Island. Although a separate feature for some months, this polynya joins the North Water polynya, the largest reoccurring one in the Arctic. Surrounded by ice and located off the east coast of Coburg Island these open water areas persists all year-round and provide seabirds with rich supplies of fish and crustaceans, especially in the spring. 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, and Ringed, Bearded and Harp Seals.

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


NWAs are protected and managed according to the Wildlife Area Regulations under the Canada Wildlife Act. The primary purpose of NWAs is the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose, and according to the legislation, Environment and Climate Change Canada can prohibit all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. Nonetheless, Environment and Climate Change Canada has the ability to authorize some activities, whether through public notice or the issuance of permits, as long as these 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 (including collecting migratory bird eggs and feathers) for their economic, social and cultural needs (Article 5 of the NLCA). Nirjutiqavvik NWA, as per the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) and Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for conservation areas, is managed in partnership by Environment and Climate Change Canada with the Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Grise Fiord, Nunavut.

Access to Nirjutiqavvik 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.

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

Map of the Area

  • Nirjutiqavvik NWA.
Long description for the Map

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 tens of 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. Nirjutiqavvik NWA can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

This table provides summary information for the Nirjutiqavvik 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 Thick-billed Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes.
Date created (Gazetted) 1995 - Legal Description
International Union for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)) Management Category Ib - Wilderness Area
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species Thick-billed Murre, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar.
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Ivory Gulls (occasionally seen in the NWA), Polar Bears, Ringed Seals.
Main habitat type Mostly marine habitat with a terrestrial portion consisting of precambrian granitic gneiss, granulite-facies sedimentary and volcanic rocks, and glaciers.
Invasive species None recorded
Additional links

Birds: Seabirds, Glaucous Gull, Black Guillemot, and Atlantic Puffin.

Mammals: Walrus, Beluga, Narwhal, Ringed Seal, Bearded Seal, and Harp Seal.

Main threats and challenges Increased shipping for hydrocarbon exploration, development and cruise ships.
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 Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
Eastern Arctic Unit
P. O. Box 1714
Iqaluit, Nunavut
X0A 0H0
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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