Report on the designation of the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area

The Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area (MPA) was designated via a ministerial order under the Oceans Act on July 29th, 2019. As per subsection 35.1(4) of the Oceans Act, this report provides the following information related to the designation of the MPA:

Area of the sea designated by the Tuvaijuittuq MPA

Figure 1. Map of the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area

Figure 1. Map of the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area

The Tuvaijuittuq MPA covers an area of 319,411 km2 and 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 (Figure 1). It also includes the seabed, the subsoil to a depth of five metres and the water column, including the sea ice. A PDF version of plan number FB 42596 and the corresponding Canada Lands Survey Records’ map can be downloaded online.

The eastern edge of the MPA is in the Lincoln Sea. Canada has a maritime boundary dispute with Denmark in that area. The limits of Canada’s maritime zones in this area with the Kingdom of Denmark are not yet settled. Canada and Denmark announced on November 28, 2012, that a tentative agreement on the Lincoln Sea boundary had been reached. The next step is to develop treaty text for ratification. Once the maritime boundary is finalized, this portion of the MPA boundary may need to be reviewed to reflect the coordinates in the treaty.

Summary of the consultations undertaken prior to designating the Tuvaijuittuq MPA

Considerable consultation and engagement has been conducted with key partners and stakeholders in relation to the use of a ministerial order MPA under the Oceans Act in Tuvaijuittuq as the first phase of a multi-phased approach to marine protection in the High Arctic marine environment. Throughout the engagement process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Parks Canada Agency (PCA) have engaged with key Inuit partners and territorial governments, as well as other federal departments and agencies, non-governmental organizations, and organizations representing industry.

Key Inuit organizations and northern governments

Key partners and stakeholders in Nunavut were initially engaged through the Nunavut Marine Conservation Target Steering Committee (the Committee) that was established in May 2017 to provide a coordination mechanism on marine conservation activities planned and underway within and adjacent to Nunavut. Participation on the Committee includes senior-level representatives from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the PCA, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Transport Canada, DFO, the Nunavut Department of Environment, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

In June 2018, options for the protection of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA were presented to the Committee. The Committee expressed concerns related to Canada’s obligations under the Nunavut Agreement and the proposed boundary. In follow-up, letters were sent to both Eastern and Western Arctic Inuit representatives and territorial governments recognizing Canada’s treaty obligations and outlining a proposed phased approach to providing protection to Tuvaijuittuq. The letters were sent from DFO and the PCA to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the Department of Environment for the Government of Nunavut, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon government. DFO met with the Committee again in January 2019 to provide updates on the MPA proposal and associated policy intent.

On October 1, 2018, in response to the letters from DFO and the PCA, the Government of Nunavut sent a letter to Canada’s Prime Minister and the President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association expressing concern over the use of a ministerial order under the Oceans Act in Tuvaijuittuq, including concerns related to due process (i.e. allowing time for consultation and assessment), the rationale for using a phased approach for protection, and the loss of access to possible resources. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) respecting a process to assess the feasibility and desirability for the creation and recommendation of marine protected area options within Tuvaijuittuq was subsequently reached between the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in March 2019, establishing a formal working relationship between the parties to explore options for the protection of Tuvaijuittuq. In May 2019, Natural Resources Canada presented a high-level overview of the resource potential in Tuvaijuittuq to a Steering Committee established under the MOU.

The MOU Steering Committee provided support to submit the interim Tuvaijuittuq MPA proposal to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board for approval and the Nunavut Planning Commission for a conformity check with the North Baffin Land Use Plan as is required under the Nunavut Agreement. Official MOU party positions on the proposal were obtained to inform the final decision on the establishment of the MPA. On June 10, 2019, the Government of Nunavut wrote to DFO advising that they do not oppose the protection of Tuvaijuittuq through ministerial order under the Oceans Act, provided that work under the MOU to develop a recommendation report on the desirability and feasibility of establishing long-term protection measures in Tuvaijuittuq is completed. The Qikiqtani Inuit Association wrote to DFO, the PCA and the Government of Nunavut on June 14, 2019, in support of the interim protection of Tuvaijuittuq subject to the ratification of key agreements, including the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.

Community engagement

In April 2018, DFO officials travelled to the Nunavut communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord to meet with Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO) boards to provide updates on potential areas of interest in Canada’s Arctic, to gauge community support for the establishment of MPAs in the High Arctic marine environment, and to consult on the scientific field work proposed by the DFO-led Multidisciplinary Arctic Program. The Grise Fiord HTO board indicated that they required more information regarding the High Arctic marine environment before they could support protection in that region. The Resolute Bay HTO board supported protection measures in the area but expressed concern regarding the Government of Canada’s capacity for enforcement.

Following the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board’s recommendation received on January 2, 2019, to further engage nearby communities and co-management partners, DFO, the PCA, and the Government of Nunavut undertook a tour to Arctic Bay, Resolute and Grise Fiord in late February 2019. Meetings were held with the HTOs and communities to provide information and seek feedback on potential protection options for the proposed MPA. Local Qikiqtani Inuit Association representatives for each community attended the HTO meetings and provided valuable feedback. The HTOs and communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute and Grise Fiord were supportive of long-term protection measures as well as the phased approach for protection.

On June 14, 2019 the communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute, Grise Fiord, Clyde River and Pond Inlet wrote to DFO, the PCA, the Government of Nunavut, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association expressing support for the interim protection of Tuvaijuittuq. The letters also spoke to the importance of their communities being further engaged in the feasibility assessment of establishing long-term protection measures.

Co-management Board engagement

In December 2018, DFO formally presented the proposal to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and requested advice. DFO received a letter from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on January 2, 2019, indicating that additional engagement was required prior to providing official advice. In February 2019, following the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board’s recommendation, DFO, the PCA and the Government of Nunavut visited the communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord to update the communities with respect to research programs and seek feedback on potential protection options for the proposed MPA. Local Qikiqtani Inuit Association representatives for each community attended the HTO meetings and provided valuable feedback. Both the HTOs and communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord were supportive of long-term protection measures, as well as a phased approach for protection. The Government of Canada sought approval of the boundary for the proposed Tuvaijuittuq MPA from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on June 19, 2019. On July 4, 2019, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board wrote to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard approving the proposal to protect Tuvaijuittuq through ministerial order.

On April 5, 2019, DFO met with the Nunavut Marine Council Working Group, which has representation from the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Nunavut Water Board and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. The representative from the Nunavut Impact Review Board was unable to attend. An overview of the proposal was provided and the Nunavut Marine Council representatives indicated that the update was appreciated and advised on the role of their respective organizations in the process.

Broader stakeholder engagement

In September 2018, the Tuvaijuittuq MPA proposal was sent to a broader stakeholder distribution list, which included the Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat, the Nunavut Fisheries Association, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board/Nunavut Marine Council, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, the Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord and Arctic Bay HTOs, and the Ecology Action Centre. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board recommended that DFO seek formal advice from the Board as per the Nunavut Agreement. DFO did this by presenting to the Board and seeking advice in December 2018.

Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

As the MPA is adjacent to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, engagement with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation was undertaken. In addition to letters being sent from DFO and the PCA, key partners in the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region have primarily been engaged through the Beaufort Sea Partnership Regional Coordination Committee, which is composed of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, the PCA, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon government.

In early September 2018, a proposed phased approach to protecting the High Arctic Basin was presented to the Beaufort Sea Partnership Regional Coordinating Committee and the Inuvialuit Game Council at regular meetings. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation indicated that it will not support the establishment of new MPAs in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region until Inuvialuit concerns with the current MPA funding model and the 2016 Arctic oil and gas moratorium are addressed. The proposal yielded no comments or questions from participants.

Also in September 2018, the proposed approach was presented to the Fisheries Joint Management Committee at a face-to-face meeting. The Fisheries Joint Management Committee requested continued engagement on the MPA proposal.

DFO met with the Beaufort Sea Partnership Regional Coordinating Committee again in March 2019 to provide updates on the Tuvaijuittuq MPA proposal and associated policy intent. Participants in the meeting included the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, the PCA, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon government, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Transport Canada. There were no comments or questions.

In April 2019, in light of recent negotiations between the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon government, and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation on future offshore oil and gas activity in the Beaufort Sea, the Government of the Northwest Territories expressed concerns with the boundary of the study area within the Canada–Nunavut–Qikiqtani Inuit Association MOU on protecting Tuvaijuittuq. While the Government of Canada has the authority under the Oceans Act to designate a marine protected area in any area of the sea that forms part of the internal waters of Canada, the territorial sea of Canada, or the exclusive economic zone of Canada, the proposed boundary of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA was modified to remove the area that caused concern, in the spirit of collaboration.

Other federal departments and agencies

From July 2018 to May 2019, information on the Tuvaijuittuq MPA proposal was provided by DFO and the PCA through regular interdepartmental calls and by email to other key federal partners, including the Department of National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Natural Resources Canada, and the National Energy Board. Discussion and correspondence described the proposed approach for protection in the Tuvaijuittuq MPA and requested feedback on any known, ongoing and authorized activities in the MPA. The Department of National Defence identified ongoing activities in the area, related to defence research and defence activities in support of the Canadian Forces Station Alert. No further ongoing or authorized activities were identified in Tuvaijuittuq.

Non-governmental organizations and industry

World Wildlife Fund-Canada (WWF-Canada) has been calling for the protection of the Last Ice Area (which includes the Tuvaijuittuq MPA) for many years. WWF-Canada verbally communicated that they will support protection in this area. Oceans North has also verbally communicated their support for protection in this area.

In November 2018, an information package on the proposed phased approach to protection for Tuvaijuittuq was sent to the shipping industry through the Canadian Marine Advisory Council distribution list, which includes hundreds of stakeholders. No concerns were expressed by any member of the Council.

The Nunavut Fisheries Association communicated their support for the MPA proposal as well as for additional research in the area. They indicated that protecting the area will have no impact on the fishing industry.

Arctic Security Consultants specializes in providing independent commercial and policy advice on the Canadian Arctic with a focus on security and sovereignty. They expressed full support for the MPA proposal.

Summary of the information that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans considered when designating the Tuvaijuittuq MPA

Ecological importance of the area

The MPA overlaps with three ecologically and biologically significant areas that were identified by DFO in 2011. It has also been selected by PCA as a candidate site to be part of its system of national marine conservation areas. The importance of this area has been acknowledged by academia and environmental non-governmental organizations who have been calling for its protection due to the area’s increasing significance in a changing climate.

The Tuvaijuittuq MPA is considered globally, nationally and regionally unique due to the presence of multi-year pack ice and is believed to be a critically important habitat for Arctic under-ice communities. It may also play an important role for ice-dependent species (e.g. beluga, narwhal, walrus, seals and polar bear). This area represents a portion of the Canadian High Arctic projected to retain multi-year ice in the long term and will likely become an important refuge for ice-associated biota as sea ice loss continues throughout the Arctic due to climate change.

Risk from human activities

The Arctic climate is experiencing rapid change resulting in the loss of sea ice and more specifically, multi-year pack ice. These changes are generating new opportunities and challenges for the Arctic. For example, warming may result in an extended shipping season and the creation of new shipping routes, which may, in turn, make mining, oil and gas development, commercial fishing, research, and tourism more accessible across the Arctic. These types of activities may pose a risk to the habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem function within the MPA. Without government intervention, a possible increase in Arctic shipping and related activities, particularly ice breaking, could negatively impact the multi-year ice environment, which is the critical feature of this area requiring protection.

Designating this ecologically important area as an MPA through a ministerial order under the Oceans Act will help protect and conserve the important biological diversity, unique structural habitat, and ecosystem function within this area, while additional information is collected and appropriate conservation tools are assessed for long-term protection.

Benefits and costs of the MPA designation

A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) considered the impacts of the MPA designation on all stakeholders and Indigenous peoples primarily qualitatively. Federal government costs were evaluated quantitatively. The time horizon used for evaluating the impacts is five years and the costs are estimated in present value terms with a discount rate of 7%.

Due to a lack of information for the region, the potential benefits that may accrue from the establishment of the MPA could not be assessed quantitatively. However, benefits are anticipated via the prohibition of new activities (i.e. freezing the footprint) within the area until decisions for long-term protection are made.

The establishment of an MPA may provide some level of benefits for the surrounding communities and Canadians at large. The anticipated benefits include the following:

  • Research: The MPA will support and encourage ongoing research initiatives in the area. The new information will help to better understand the area, provide a baseline for marine research and monitoring, and increase education and public knowledge about the importance of this area.
  • Ecosystem services: It is believed that Tuvaijuittuq provides invaluable direct and indirect services to society through the maintenance of ecosystems and biodiversity. The Tuvaijuittuq area is expected to support long-term ecosystem health in High Arctic marine waters by providing refuge for under-ice communities and ice-dependent species. These protections will become especially important in the face of large-scale sea ice declines throughout the Arctic as a result of climate change. Without more knowledge of the area, it is expected that this unique environment will play a critical role in ecosystem functioning. Its role in ecosystem health and stability is likely to increase over time with projected increases in sea ice loss in the future.
  • Non-use values: These values represent the value people derive from a good or a resource, independent of any use people might make from that good or resource, including the conservation of the ecosystem for future generations. This includes the benefit arising from people intrinsically valuing the existence of the ecosystem regardless of its use. The communities near the MPA and people residing elsewhere in Canada are expected to derive non-use value from the services provided by the area.

Negligible ongoing and potential activities were identified through the CBA or consultations. Moreover, as the ministerial order only covers a period of up to five years, after which decisions on longer-term management measures will be taken, additional activities are not anticipated within that time frame. As a consequence of these considerations, incremental impacts on businesses and Canadians, including Indigenous groups, are not anticipated:

  • Based on available information, DFO harvest records, and conversations with communities (with the regional Oceans Program in 2019) for the Tuvaijuittuq MPA proposal, no subsistence harvesting activities were identified to occur in or directly adjacent to this area in recent years. No incremental impacts on the Inuit communities are likely, as rights provided for under the Nunavut Agreement are not to be affected by the designation of the MPA.
  • Natural Resources Canada has identified some offshore oil or natural gas potential in the area; however, the area has not been explored for hydrocarbons, so geological data is lacking, which constrains resource estimates. No offshore wells or commercial seismic surveys have been conducted in Tuvaijuittuq, in large part due to its geographic remoteness and pervasive sea ice cover. Given the lack of industry interest in the area to date and that the 2016 Arctic oil and gas moratorium is in effect in the area, no oil and gas activities are currently taking place or are planned to take place (at least until 2021, when the first science-based review of the moratorium is set to be completed) in the area in which the MPA is located. Therefore, the MPA will have no impact on the oil and gas sector for the foreseeable future, as it is unlikely that there would be activity in this time frame.
  • Similarly, no impact on mining activity is anticipated as no mineral exploration or mine production is taking place within the boundaries of the MPA.
  • Vessel traffic to and through the MPA has been limited in the last decade as there are no communities in or near this area. A data analysis conducted by Maerospace (2019) concluded that satellite automatic identification system data provided no indication of vessel traffic in the area during the time period of March 2017 to November 2018. Therefore, no incremental impact on shipping is likely.
  • There are no known tourism or recreational activities currently taking place within the MPA. The Quttinirpaaq National Park, on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, is adjacent to the area, but it is unlikely that over the next five-year period, tourism activities would be initiated in the MPA. Therefore, the MPA would not impact the ongoing tourism activity.
  • There is some scientific research and National Defence activity within the MPA. As these activities are allowed under the MPA, there would be no incremental impacts.

With respect to federal government costs, the CBA estimated that the establishment of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA will result in an annual average cost of $2.6 million in administrative, enforcement, scientific research and monitoring activity costs. Assuming 2019 as the base year and using a discount rate of 7%, the present value of the total federal government costs are estimated to be approximately $11.23 million over the five-year period. These government costs will be funded through existing resources and no new funding will be sought.

While the CBA could not quantify the potential benefits or quantitatively compare the present values of costs and benefits, it is believed that any ecological, economic, social and cultural benefits of the MPA would likely outweigh any perceived costs.

Government of Canada priorities

In 2010, Canada committed to the marine conservation targets established under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity known as Aichi Target 11. This target commits Canada to conserving 10% of coastal and marine areas through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2020. This target was also included in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14. The establishment of the MPA contributes an additional 5.55% to Canada’s marine and coastal conservation, exceeding Canada’s 2020 conservation target. The MPA also supports other government priorities, including reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, through the full implementation of land claim agreements, and contributes to the objectives of a new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework through “protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity.”

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