Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area (MPA)
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Tuvaijuittuq is the first Marine Protected Area to be designated for interim protection by ministerial order under the Oceans Act, limiting human activities in the area for up to five years.
Off the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut in the Arctic Ocean; Encompasses areas within the Arctic Basin and Arctic Archipelago Bioregions.
Approximate Size (km2) contribution to Marine Conservation Targets
Approximate % coverage contribution to Marine Conservation Targets
Date of designation (by ministerial order)
- To contribute to the conservation, protection and understanding of the natural diversity, productivity and dynamism of the High Arctic sea ice ecosystem.
Tuvaijuittuq is the first Marine Protected Area to be designated by ministerial order under the Oceans Act for interim protection. Under the order no new or additional human activities will be allowed to occur in the area for up to five years, with the following exceptions:
- The exercise of Inuit rights respecting wildlife harvesting as provided for under the Nunavut Agreement
- Marine scientific research consistent with the conservation objectives of the MPA
- Safety, security and emergency activities
- Certain activities carried out by a foreign national, entity, ship or state.
The MPA provides interim protection to the area while the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada work with Inuit and northern partners to explore the feasibility of longer term protection for this area.
Tuvaijuittuq, meaning “the place where the ice never melts” in Inuktut, is located in an area that has been used by Inuit for travel and harvesting. This culturally and historically significant marine area is considered globally, nationally and regionally unique due to the presence of multi-year pack ice. The Tuvaijuittuq MPA includes the marine waters off northern Ellesmere Island starting from the low water mark and extending to the outward boundary of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
This remote region has the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice continues to decline in the Arctic, the ice in this region is expected to last the longest. This makes the area a unique and potentially important future summer habitat for ice-dependent species, including walrus, seals and polar bears.
Over the past three decades, the Arctic Ocean has lost an area of sea ice equivalent to the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec combined, making the Arctic more accessible to commercial activities such as shipping, fisheries, tourism, and mining. A better understanding of this region will be critical as climate change continues to result in the dramatic declines in sea ice. Although historically this area has been used by Inuit, particularly for travel and harvesting, there are currently no permanent human settlements within or adjacent to Tuvaijuittuq. The two closest inhabited areas to Tuvaijuittuq include the High Arctic community of Grise Fiord and the Canadian Forces station (CFB) Alert located at the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island. Grise Fiord is Canada’s northernmost hamlet and CFS Alert is the northernmost inhabited settlement in the world.
Tuvaijuittuq is an area of particular ecological importance due to the presence of old, thick, multi-year pack ice. Sea ice provides habitat for ice-adapted organisms, such as microscopic algae, that form the basis of, and provide energy for, Arctic marine food webs all the way up to marine mammals and polar bears. The seabed community in this area is more abundant and diverse than previously expected and may also have important implications for supporting larger animals such as walrus and bearded seals. The area’s importance to regional ecosystems is expected to become more critical as the Arctic continues to lose sea ice at a rapid pace.
Tuvaijuittuq is also unique due to circulation through the area of the Beaufort Gyre, a wind-driven Arctic Ocean current that contains a globally significant accumulation of fresh water from North American and Eurasian Arctic rivers. The Gyre is a major source of multi-year ice to the Arctic via the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
Management and conservation
Management and conservation
Collaboration and partnership is vitally important to effective management and conservation of the Canadian Arctic marine environment. A memorandum of understanding between the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association has been established to support the advancement of marine protection in Tuvaijuittuq. Additionally, an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement has been negotiated with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for a future national marine conservation area (NMCA) in Tallurutiup Imanga. A whole of government approach to the negotiation of this agreement has meant that it will also be applied to any future, long-term marine protected areas in Tuvaijuittuq.
The primary goal of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA is to protect and conserve biological diversity, structural habitat, and ecosystem function while additional information is collected to inform the appropriate conservation tools for long-term protection. Ongoing research activities in the area will be allowed to continue, providing the foundation for the evidence-based assessment of long-term options.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to work with partners and stakeholders to assess appropriate long-term options. A feasibility assessment for the application of long-term protection measures to Tuvaijuittuq is under way in partnership with the Government of Nunavut, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. Science and traditional and local knowledge will play a key role in the assessment. This will include Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, a source of information passed down from generation to generation that encompasses Inuit beliefs, principles and values, together with traditional knowledge, skills and attitudes. The assessment will also take into consideration the social, environmental, administrative and economic benefits and impacts of establishing long term marine protected areas in the region.
As Tuvaijuittuq is partially within the Nunavut Settlement Area it is subject to the Nunavut Agreement. The lead federal authority for the Tuvaijuittuq MPA, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of the ministerial order. Enforcement activities are undertaken through the Department’s legislated mandate and responsibilities under the Oceans Act and the Fisheries Act, as well as other legislation applicable to fisheries conservation, environmental protection, habitat protection and marine safety. Enforcement officers designated by the Minister pursuant to section 39 of the Oceans Act will enforce the ministerial order for this area. Anyone contravening the order commits an offence and can be subject to the punishments listed in section 37 of the Oceans Act.
Order Designating the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area (Available soon).
Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (Available soon).
For more information about the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protect Area please contact:Oceans Program
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Central and Arctic Region)
501 University Crescent
Tel: (204) 983-5006
Research and publications
Research and publications
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with international experts, academia, and other government departments, is leading an ongoing Multidisciplinary Arctic Program that began in 2018 to study the multi-year sea-ice ecosystem in Canada’s High Arctic.
- Novel observations of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in Archer Fjord, northern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada (2019)
- Tuvaijuittuq News Release (2019)
- Temporal and Spatial Patterns of Ship Traffic in the Canadian Arctic from 1990 to 2015 (2017)
- Assessment of historical changes (1959-2012) and the causes of recent break-ups of the Petersen ice shelf, Nunavut, Canada (2015)
- Ecological Consequences of Sea-Ice Decline (2013)
- Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in the Canadian Arctic (2011)
- Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models (2009)
- Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program: Projections of Climate Change Impacts in the Arctic Ocean
- Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas (produced by Oceans North and its partners to provide a comprehensive look at this environment).
- Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program: Canadian Implementation (Fisheries and Oceans represents Canada on the CBMP-Marine Steering Group, which provides overall direction on plan implementation).
- Ice Shelves (Environment and Climate Change Canada).
- Inuit Circumpolar Council (represents Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka on matters of international importance).
- Last Ice Area (term used by the World Wildlife Fund to describe areas of the Arctic where ice is still present year-round).
- Oceans North (Oceans North supports made-in-the-Arctic solutions through partnerships with Indigenous organizations and Northern communities).
- Polar Knowledge Canada (created in 2015 in order to improve economic opportunities, environmental stewardship and the quality of life of its residents and all other Canadians, and strengthen Canada’s Arctic leadership in the Arctic).
As per subsection 35.1 (4) of the Oceans Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will publish a report on the designation of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA. This report will:
- Indicate the area of the sea that is designated
- Summarize the consultations undertaken prior to the designation of the MPA
- Summarize the environmental, social, cultural or economic information that was gathered and considered in making the MPA.
This report will be made available following the publication of the ministerial order and the regulatory impact analysis statement in Canada Gazette, Part II.
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