Government of Canada identifies a marine area of interest for protection off the coast of Nunavut

News release

August 26, 2019                                                                                 

Ottawa, Ontario With the world’s longest coastline and surrounded by three oceans – Canada’s marine ecosystems provide a home to an abundance of marine life and support over 350,000 jobs and support hundreds of coastal and Indigenous communities.

Establishing protected areas in our oceans is critical to preserving marine life. These areas promote healthy and resilient ecosystems in the face of pollution, climate change and overfishing. After many years of hard work and dedication, Canada has now protected nearly 14% of marine and coastal areas. This surpasses our marine conservation target of protecting 10% by 2020.

Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced that we are continuing to make progress with a new Area of Interest (AOI) off the coast of Nunavut, with the intention of making it an Oceans Act Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The Southampton Island AOIis 93,087 km2 in size and accounts for 1.6% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas. Located within the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, the area encompasses the nearshore waters around Southampton Island and Chesterfield Inlet. The communities of Coral Harbour and Chesterfield Inlet are adjacent to the AOI, which is an important migration pathway for marine mammals such as narwhals, belugas and bowheads, contains haul-out sites for walrus, is used by polar bears, and provides habitat for seabird colonies.

Working in partnership with the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Fisheries and Oceans Canada identified the area as a priority for protection through community consultations, a peer-reviewed science advisory process and  Indigenous knowledge. Today’s announcement is the first step towards the possible designation of an MPA under Canada’s Oceans Act. The final boundaries, conservation objectives, and prohibited and allowed activities for an MPA are established through extensive consultations with provincial and territorial partners, Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders.


“Our government is working with the Kivalliq Inuit Association, northern governments, and stakeholders in the north to continue to make progress in protecting more of the Arctic Ocean through the identification of this new Area of Interest. By working together, we can protect this unique ecosystem that is home to many northern species.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"The commitment being made through this initiative acknowledges the significance of marine life to Inuit of the region. We look forward to continuing our work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in development of protected areas that are vital ecosystems for our coastal communities."

David Ningeongan, President, Kivalliq Inuit Association

Quick facts

  • Southampton Island is the largest island in Hudson Bay, located where the waters of Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin meet. The area has a high rate of marine productivity due to its location.

  • Marine conservation values within the AOI extend into two Environment and Climate Change Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuaries: The Harry Gibbons (Ikkattuaq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the area supports colonies of nesting common eiders and other seabirds.

  • The Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whale population is also found in the area.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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