Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area

The Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located off the east coast of Baffin Island in Merchants Bay, in Nunavut. Measuring 398 km2, the NWA protects key habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.


Qaqulluit NWA was established in 2010 to protect Canada’s largest breeding colony of Northern Fulmar (estimated at about 27,000 pairs). Qaqulluit is the Inuktitut word for "fulmar". Qaqulluit is a cultural important area for Inuit, which continues to be used for subsistence today. The NWA comprises the northeastern tip of the Qaqulluit Island and its surrounding waters extending to the territorial sea limit. Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly know as Broughton Island), is the closest Inuit community situated approximately 100 km northwest of the NWA.

Qaqulluit NWA – landscape. Photo: Garry Donaldson

Other interesting facts about the NWA:

  • previously known as Cape Searle, the land portion of Qaqulluit is characterized by two 400-meter high cliffs used by seabirds for nesting
  • the marine rich waters included make up 99% of the NWA, used as feeding grounds by seabirds and various marine mammals
  • other seabirds found nesting in small numbers between April and October include black guillemots, glaucous and Iceland gulls
  • marine mammals regularly found in the NWA include walrus, ringed seals, polar bears and various types of whales
  • Qaqulluit NWA is located 30 km north of Akpait NWA
Fulmar in flight
Fulmar. Photo: Lisa Pirie-Dominix

Find more information on Akpait 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.

Qaqulluit NWA is managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Inuit from Qikiqtarjuaq, 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 Sululiit 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 Qaqulluit 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 Qaqulluit 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 Qaqulluit NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Qaqulluit NWA
Map of Qaqulluit NWA
Long description

This map showing two of Baffin Island offshore islands within Merchants Bay, Qaqulluit and Padloping islands. The boundaries of the Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area are indicated. The protected area covers a portion of the Davis Strait as well as the northeastern tip of Qaqulluit island at the mouth of Merchants Bay. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water is 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

  • Long description

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

Summary table for Qaqulluit NWA
Category Information
Protected Area designation National Wildlife Area
Province/territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 67°14' North / 62°28'West
Size in ha Total: 39,821 ha:
  • Marine: 39,616 ha
  • Terrestrial: 205 ha
Reason for creation of protected area Contains 20% 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
  • International Biological Programme Site (Region 7, Site 7-6)
  • Cape Searle Important Bird Area (IBA - NU003)
  • Qaqulluit (Cape Searle) Key Marine Habitat Site (NU Site 21) and Key Terrestrial Habitat Site (NU Site 27)
Keystone or flagship species Northern fulmar
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Mammals: Birds: Fish:
Main habitat type
  • Mostly marine
  • Land portion comprised of:
    • two rock towers
    • orange lichen
    • graminoid vegetation
Invasive species None
Other species Other Breeding Birds: Terrestrial Mammals: Marine Mammals:
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, the notice prevails. The notice is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

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

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

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