Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area

The Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area (NWA), in Nunavut, is an important area for seabirds. It hosts a large number of breeding northern fulmars. The NWA also protects various marine mammals, including walrus and ringed seal.


Qaqulluit NWA was established in 2010. Formerly known as Cape Searle, this NWA is located on the north-eastern tip of Qaqulluit Island. This small island is:

  • off the eastern coast of Baffin Island
  • about 100 kilometres (km) southeast of Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly Broughton Island)
  • just north of the Cumberland Peninsula
Qaqulluit NWA – landscape. Photo: Garry Donaldson

Qaqulluit is the Inuktitut word for "northern fulmar". The NWA is near:

  • the former community of Padloping Island (a U.S. Coast Guard Station)
  • the Distant Early Warning (DEW line) site on Durban Island

Qaqulluit NWA contains key marine habitat and has two huge rock spires. These large structures are topped with hardy arctic plants and covered in brilliant orange lichens. There are also several archaeological sites on Qaqulluit Island.

Glaucous gulls
Glaucous gulls

The NWA is home to Canada's largest breeding colony of northern fulmars. This is around 22% (about 44 000 pairs) of the total Canadian population. Other nesting seabirds found in the NWA include:

  • black guillemots
  • various gull species such as:
    • glaucous gulls
    • iceland gulls

The NWA is also an Important Bird Area (IBA). The nesting birds are sensitive to disturbance and the pollution of their feeding areas.

The marine portion further protects marine mammal populations that regularly use the waters of the NWA such as:

  • walrus
  • ringed seals

More information is provided on Qaqulluit 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 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.

Qaqulluit NWA is managed by partnerships with:

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Sululiit Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut

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

Access to Qaqulluit 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 can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Qaqulluit NWA
  • Long description

    Map showing a portion of Baffin Island, Nunavut, near Merchants Bay and the Davis Strait. The boundaries of Qaqulluit NWA are indicated. The protected area covers a portion of the Davis Strait near Merchants bay as well as a portion of a small island at the mouth of the bay. The scale on the map is in km. 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

Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 67°14' North / 62°28'West
Size in ha 39,821 ha
Reason for creation of protected area Contains 22% of the Canadian breeding population of northern fulmars
Date created (Gazetted) 2010 - Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Wilderness Area (Ib)
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species Northern fulmar
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Main habitat type
  • Mostly marine habitat
  • A land portion comprised of:
    • two rock towers
    • orange lichen
    • graminoid vegetation
Invasive species None
Other species Birds:


Main threats and challenges An increase of:
Management Agency
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
  • Sululiit Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut
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. It is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and 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)

Related links

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: