Celebrating World Oceans Day in the Arctic
OTTAWA - As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I’m thrilled to mark this year’s World Oceans Day in the Arctic, which is being celebrated in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, a small Inuvialuit community located on the west coast of Victoria Island.
Canada’s Arctic is vast and beautiful. It is steeped in tradition and marked by unprecedented environmental change and growing international interest. People living in circumpolar regions find themselves on the front lines of climate change which is why many Arctic communities are leading the charge to protect and conserve our oceans.
As our planet continues to warm, we must prepare for areas in the Arctic Ocean that will be ice free in the not so distant future. For example, last November, Canada reached an historic agreement in principle with eight other nations and the European Union to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean until there is a better understanding about the area’s changing ecosystems and meaningful conservation and management measures can be established. The final agreement recognizes Arctic Indigenous people’s interests, the value of their knowledge in decision making, and their inclusion in the process moving forward.
Our government is also committed to protecting Canada’s High Arctic. This region, where multiyear sea ice is expected to last the longest in the face of climate change, is likely to become an important refuge for ice-dependent species such as polar bears and beluga, as well as communities that depend on them for food, dress and shelter. Working alongside Indigenous, Northern and international partners, as well as academia and environmental organizations, we’re committed to conserve this important and sensitive area for future generations. This spring, our scientists, in collaboration with international experts, academia, and other government departments, completed a successful field research campaign in Canada’s High Arctic which will inform the first ever ecological assessment of this area of the Canadian High Arctic. This knowledge is essential to understand the structure, function and role of the sea ice associated ecosystem in the Arctic Ocean.
The women and men of the Canadian Coast Guard also work hard in this region and their work helps ensure safety in Arctic waters, protecting the region’s vulnerable marine environment and serving Northern residents. Through our Oceans Protection Plan we’re expanding the reach of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary by funding communities to acquire new search and rescue capable boats and related equipment; and through training that will help strengthen the capacity of Indigenous coastal communities to participate in maritime search and rescue activities in local waters as members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
We are also opening a seasonal Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, that will be operated by Indigenous students from the Arctic who are trained to support near-shore search and rescue operations. In addition, Northern Canadians will see Coast Guard icebreakers on the water for longer periods of time this season which complements investments that will make Arctic resupply operations faster, safer and more efficient for remote communities.
The Arctic Ocean is a shared priority that requires ongoing conservation, protection and management by all levels of government, international partners, industry, environmental organizations and Indigenous peoples who have a wealth of knowledge, experience and traditions to draw upon when it comes to the sustainable use of our waters and the marine life within them. We must continue to promote environmental stewardship across the North.”
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
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