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Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound in High Arctic to be Canada’s Largest Protected Area

14 August 2017 

News Release

Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound in High Arctic to be Canada’s Largest Protected Area

Canada, Nunavut, and Qikiqtani Inuit Association agree on a final boundary for Canada’s largest national marine conservation area in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound in Canada’s North

August 14, 2017 Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Canada’s North is a vast area of pristine ocean and land that has been part of the traditional Inuit homeland since time immemorial. It is also home to a rich abundance of whales, polar bears, and migrating birds. Climate change and human activity are affecting the landscape and the traditional way of life in the Arctic, and humanity has a duty to protect them.

Today, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, along with Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut’s Minister of Environment, and Mr. P.J. Akeeagok, President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, announced an agreement on the final boundary of a national marine conservation area (NMCA) in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound.

A section of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound twice the size of Nova Scotia will be protected, making it the largest marine conservation area in Canada.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of tireless work by Nunavut Inuit and different levels of government. In partnership with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut, the Government of Canada is taking a significant step to create a legacy for future generations. The protection of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound as a national marine conservation area is a model of collaboration and a shared accomplishment. This agreement launches the negotiation of an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement (IIBA) that will provide long lasting benefits for Inuit who have deep roots in the region. The agreement also confirms a moratorium on future offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

This conservation area will protect Inuit harvesting rights guaranteed under the Nunavut agreement and ensure the protection of species at risk.

The Government of Canada is committed to expanding its network of protected areas and protecting Canada’s biodiversity. The agreed boundary of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound will contribute approximately two per cent on an interim basis towards the government of Canada’s commitment to protect five percent of Canada’s marine areas by 2017. Upon the signing of the Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement, this conservation area will contribute greatly towards Canada’s international commitments to the United Nations Convention on biological diversity.

Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound is teeming with life. The cold arctic waters foster birds, fish, and whales, forming one of the most unique ecosystems in the world; one that is both awe-inspiring and has sustained Inuit for thousands of years. The region is a place where the vibrant culture and well-being of Inuit are strongly tied to the land and sea.

Today marks a critical and important step towards the protection of this area for future generations.


"Protecting this area is critically important. Like most of the Arctic, the region is threatened by climate change. Rising temperatures and melting sea ice are shrinking habitats, and putting vulnerable sea life under pressure. Inuit, who for millennia relied on these species for food, clothing, and shelter, have found their livelihoods endangered and their futures at risk.

By protecting Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound today, we are helping preserve a rich legacy for tomorrow. We are creating a buffer against the threats of climate change, and protecting against the stressors of human encroachment. We are implementing a sensible and integrated plan that will sustain biodiversity and sustain traditional ways of life."

The Honourable Catherine McKenna,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

"Our government is committed to protecting 5% of our marine areas by this year, and 10% by 2020; this national marine conservation area is a powerful step toward our goal. We are also implementing the Oceans Protection Plan, a historic, $1.5-billion investment that help our oceans stay safe and clean. Under this plan, we are expanding the Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Arctic, particularly through Indigenous participation. We look forward to continued consultation on this important project, which will see increased emergency response capacity in the Arctic and provide a meaningful opportunity for Indigenous communities to protect their marine areas for future generations."

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc,
P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"The designation of this protected area is an important achievement for Nunavummiut, and one we should all celebrate. Inuit have always been guided by our societal value of Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq, to respect and care for the land, animals, and the environment. As the stewards of our resources, it is up to us to find the balance between responsibly developing our resources and protecting and sustaining the land and the life it supports. I’m honoured to be part of this important step forward together."

The Honourable Joe Savikataaq,
Nunavut Minister of Environment

"Today is an important day for Inuit because of the profound significance of Tallurutiup Imanga to our communities. This area is the cultural heart of the region; these waters thriving with marine life have supported the lives of Inuit since time immemorial. For almost five decades, Inuit have strived to ensure these incredible resources continue to provide for our culture, our traditional way of life and our survival. Through the establishment of the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, Inuit in this region will continue to benefit from this marine area and grow and prosper into the future."

P.J. Akeeagok,
President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association

Quick Facts

  • The combined size of the proposed NMCA in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound along with Sirmilik National Park, Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area, will total more than 131,000 square kilometers – more than twice the size of Canada’s largest protected area (Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary). Together, the protected area will go from the very top of Sirmilik’s glaciers to the depths of the ocean in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound.
  • The proposed NMCA in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound more than doubles the area of Canada’s marine protected waters, from 1.54% to 3.44%, and contributes about 1.9 per cent of Canada’s total marine estate on an interim basis towards the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect five per cent of marine waters by 2017, a contribution that will only be formalized at the conclusion of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement.
  • Inuit Qauijimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge) will inform future decision making for the management and protection of the NMCA. IQ is the passing of traditional knowledge and proven best practices amongst a people and the basis for survival in the Arctic. IQ has accumulated over hundreds of generations and the result is a collective knowledge bank of oral history that has allowed Inuit to gain insights and understanding of their environment.
  • The protection of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound was supported, in part, by the efforts of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Shell Canada’s decision to voluntarily relinquish 30 oil and gas exploration leases covering 8,600 square kilometers.
  • The agreement also includes confirmation that, in addition to the moratorium on future offshore oil and gas exploration, no further exploration work, including seismic activity, will be permitted in the area while the IIBA negotiations are ongoing. Once the area is designated under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, the area will permanently prohibit the exploration for and exploitation of hydrocarbons, minerals, aggregates, and any other inorganic matter.
  • Lancaster Sound is one of 29 marine regions that cover the full range of marine ecosystems found in Canada’s Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific oceans, and the Great Lakes. Under Canada’s National Marine Conservation Area System Plan, Parks Canada’s goal is to establish NMCAs to represent each of the 29 marine regions.
  • Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound has sustained Inuit living a subsistence lifestyle for generations. Through the practice of traditional activities and harvesting that continue today, Inuit are able to feed themselves and their families while fostering a strong sense of cultural identity in all generations. The protection of this entire area is crucial for the health and vitality of Inuit in the High Arctic and is overwhelmingly supported by communities.
  • The work of Inuit to protect Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound began in the 1960s and 1970s and led to the first Lancaster Sound Regional land use plan in 1990. Today’s announcement is the culmination of decades of work by Inuit to promote and protect their interests in the area.
  • In 2016, the Government of Canada confirmed its commitment, during the World Wildlife Fund Annual Oceans Summit, to reach its marine conservation targets. As part of the event, Shell Canada voluntarily contributed offshore rights to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which subsequently released the permits to the Government of Canada, thereby facilitating today’s important announcement.

Related Document

Backgrounder: Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound

Related Links

Parks Canada

Qikiqtani Inuit Association

Government of Nunavut

Government of Canada celebrates Oceans Day and announces plan for marine conservation targets

Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound Imagery

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Marie-Pascale Des Rosiers
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency

Sima Sahar Zerehi
Director of Communications
Qikiqtani Inuit Association

Hayward Harris
Department of Environment
Government of Nunavut



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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