Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound


Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound is the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, the legendary corridor through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. The area is an important hunting ground and a place where the vibrant culture and well-being of Inuit are strongly tied to the land and sea. It is also home to a rich variety of marine life, many of which are essential for the maintenance of Inuit lifestyles.

Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound is an area of critical ecological importance to marine mammals, including seals, narwhal, beluga, and bowhead whales, as well as walrus and polar bears, and it is bordered by some of the most important seabird breeding colonies in the Arctic, with populations totalling in the hundreds of thousands. 

Several fjords border Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound and its adjacent waterways, and tidewater glaciers reach the ocean along the north-eastern coast. The dynamic oceanography of the area ensures that portions of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound remain comparatively ice free throughout the year, providing critical habitat for large concentrations of birds and mammals, as well as crucial feeding areas when access to ice-covered waters to the west is impossible. 

Human occupation and use of the Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound region can be traced back thousands of years to the Dorset and Thule cultures that preceded Inuit, for whom the region is now home. European exploration for the Northwest Passage brought several expeditions to the region, including the fabled Franklin expedition. At a number of locations along the shores of the region, there are remnants of whaling and trading posts. 

As climate change continues and year-round marine transport through the Northwest Passage becomes increasingly likely, it is important to take appropriate protective measures to safeguard this significant and diverse region in the Canadian Arctic as a national marine conservation area.


History of the national marine conservation area boundary for Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound

The idea of protecting the international, national, and regional values of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound has been a recurring theme since the late 1970s. In 2009, work began in earnest as a federal – territorial – Inuit agreement launched a joint study to determine the desirability and feasibility of establishing a national marine conservation area in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound. This work was led by a Steering Committee composed of Parks Canada, the Government of Nunavut, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

There followed several years of studies and consultations. Information was gathered on ecological values, tourism opportunities, fisheries, marine transportation, and potential hydrocarbon resources. The use of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge) alongside scientific knowledge led to a more complete understanding of the use and value of the area. Consultations were conducted in the five communities adjacent to the national marine conservation area proposal and input was solicited from regional and national stakeholders including industry and non-government organizations.

The governments of Canada and Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association took a decision on the proposed national marine conservation boundary in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound based on the results of the consultations, studies, and the Steering Committee’s work and recommendations.


National Marine Conservation Areas 

National marine conservation areas are marine protected areas managed for ecological sustainability, and created under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. They include the seabed, the water above it and may also take in wetlands, estuaries, islands, and other coastal lands. 

National marine conservation areas focus on ecological sustainability, which means harmonizing conservation practices with human activities such as fishing, shipping, and recreation. Waste dumping, mining, and oil and gas exploration and exploitation are prohibited throughout these special areas. 

This approach involves working closely with others who use the lands, waters, and living resources to reach common goals – most importantly a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. 

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