New Arctic marine protected area created

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A new marine protected area in Canada’s Arctic, located around the west side of Darnley Bay near Paulatuk has been created. Called Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam, the area comprises 2,400 square kilometres of ocean territory in the Beaufort Sea near the Inuvialuit settlement region of the Northwest Territories.

It’s an area valued highly for its ecological resources: the only thick-billed murre bird colony in the Western Arctic, plus abundant stocks of Arctic char, cod, beluga, polar bears, and seals. Together with the Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area in the nearby Mackenzie River estuary of the Beaufort Sea, the new area will safeguard key summering habitat for about 28 percent, or close to 40,000, of the world’s belugas.

As well, there’s a large geological anomaly that’s believed to contain deposits of nickel and copper in the area. It lies on land for which the Inuvialuit hold surface and subsurface mineral rights.

The Inuvialuit have already signed a concession agreement for those lands with Darnley Bay Resources Ltd. The protected area’s boundaries include two potential deep water harbour sites at Wise Bay and Summer’s Harbour, which may be required to support future economic development in the region.

Commercial fishing is banned, but Inuvialuit may continue to harvest fish in the area with recreational fishing also allowed.