The Sound on The Hill: 'Father of Nunavut' and WWF bring the Arctic to Ottawa

Yesterday afternoon, WWF-Canada and the All Party Ocean Caucus hosted an ‘Oceans on the Hill’ event to draw attention to Lancaster Sound – a critical marine area in Canada’s eastern Arctic in need of federal protection.

Narwhal crossing tusks above water surface.  Nunavut, Canada. © / Eric Baccega / WWF
Narwhal crossing tusks above water surface. Nunavut, Canada. © / Eric Baccega / WWF

Lancaster Sound is a unique Arctic ecosystem known around the world for its rich biodiversity and abundance of marine life. The Sound’s huge tides and strong currents bring a constant supply of nutrients to the surface waters there, sustaining a wide range of species from the land, sea and air. Polar bears, whales, walrus, and sea birds all make their homes in Lancaster Sound, and in early summer it serves as a migration passageway for marine mammals who enter its waters from the east and make their way to feeding and nursing areas farther west.
At yesterday’s event, MPs gathered in Centre Block alongside staffers, industry, NGOs, public servants and academics to learn more about this significant region in Canada’s North, and to hear from special guest speaker, John Amagoalik.
John Amagoalik  ©WWF-Canada
Keynote speaker John Amagoalik speaking on the importance of the area and its significance to Inuit as a homeland. © Chris Chaplin/WWF-Canada

Known to many as the father of Nunavut, Mr. Amagoalik painted a vibrant picture of his own personal connection to the Lancaster Sound region and its importance to Inuit life. He emphasized that with Lancaster Sound, Inuit have an opportunity to play a meaningful role in the management of an area where they have thrived in harmony with nature for centuries.
© Parks Canada
© Parks Canada

Parks Canada, the government of Nunavut, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association are working together on a feasibility study to consider designating Lancaster Sound as a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). NMCA’s are a type of marine protected area, where the overall management aim is the support of conservation and ecologically sustainable use. The release of this study is a much-anticipated next step in the process of establishing federal marine protection for Lancaster . There are other activities that need to take place before the sound can be designated as an NMCA too, including negotiating an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement and getting legislation through Parliament. With all of these pieces in place, Canada will finally be able to safeguard one of Canada’s most precious marine treasures for generations to come.
Atlantic walrus, Nunavut, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
Atlantic walrus, Nunavut, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

Did you know? Fast facts about Lancaster Sound:

  • At 48,000 km2, Lancaster Sound would become the largest marine protected area in Canada.
  • Up to 70,000 narwhal migrate to the sound each summer in May and June – that’s three quarters of the world’s population.
  • Over 7,300 bowhead whales live in the sound’s frigid waters; these whales use their heads to break through thick sea ice.
  • An estimated 2,500 polar bears – the largest Canadian sub-population – live on Lancaster Sound’s sea ice and make their dens in its coastal areas.
  • Significant populations of walrus and seal live there too, as well as beluga, killer whales and millions of sea birds.

Find out more about WWF-Canada’s work in the Arctic and the oceans.