The Conference of the Parties, formed under the Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for the 2011-2020 period, which called for protection of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. To meet international biodiversity goals, the Canadian Government is advancing a number of options for marine protection in the Arctic including but not limited to: Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), Tuvaijuittuq (High Arctic Basin). The development of a framework for the conservation and management of Pikialasorsuaq will contribute to achieving these biodiversity goals in the future.
The Pikialasorsuaq, meaning the “great up-welling” in Kalaallisut, is the largest polynya in the Arctic and one of the most ecologically productive areas north of the Arctic Circle. Located in waters under the jurisdiction of Nunavut, Canada, Kalaallit Nunaat and the Kingdom of Denmark, it has supported Inuit of the region for millennia; as a food source through harvesting, and as a travel route connecting Inuit communities. The Pikialasorsuaq influence and importance extends to an even larger cultural and ecological region than the boundaries of the ever-changing polynya, supporting globally significant wildlife populations. Now, the Pikialasorsuaq and the Inuit that depend on it are facing possible threats of climate and environmental change and increased human activity.
Inuit communities in Nunavut, Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat which are closely associated with the Pikialasorsuaq have expressed concerns about food security in the region, as being a matter of survival, and have also expressed concerns regarding the future of the Pikialasorsuaq. Easier accessibility to the area and its resources from the effects of climate change is expected to increase the amount of fishing, shipping, tourism and development in this region. While the potential benefits and impacts of these activities on the communities and the sensitive ecosystem are currently unknown, Inuit participation in marine management is needed to ensure the sustainable development and protection of the area and its resources.
For generations, the Pikialasorsuaq has been an important transportation thoroughfare that has facilitated Inuit mobility. Travel across the Pikialasorsuaq by sea ice, open water, or by air has helped sustain strong family, cultural and trade connections between Inuit in Nunavut, Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat. In recent decades it has become increasingly challenging to travel across international boundaries between communities of the Pikialasorsuaq region due to increased safety and security restrictions associated with international travel.
In response to these concerns, the Pikialasorsuaq Commission issued a report in November of 2017 identifying overarching objectives that Inuit from Nunavut, Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat seek to achieve; including the need for Inuit management and monitoring of the Pikialasorsuaq, and easier mobility for Inuit between Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat.
The Inuit Crown Partnership Committee was established, in part, to advance Canada’s commitment to a renewed relationship with Inuit, one based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. It follows that an objective of the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee is to advance specific initiatives which improve environmental protection and governance in Inuit Nunangat.
Today, for the benefit of Inuit Nunangat and for all Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Inuit leaders commit to working in partnership together, and with the Governments of Denmark and Kalaalliit Nunaat, to develop a path forward for advancing the sustainable marine management and environmental protection of the Pikialasorsuaq region, and to facilitate mobility for Inuit of the region. The work to advance Pikialasorsuaq will draw from efforts to create other marine protected areas such as the work being done to establish Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound). Planning will be founded upon systems developed during the establishment of other Arctic marine protected areas as well as evidence based Indigenous and western knowledge, and the principle of integrated oceans management so that decisions will be made for the sustainable use, development and protection of the ocean area and resources of the Pikialasorsuaq.
This initiative will support strong Inuit communities, through the protection of the environment and preserving the biodiversity of this unique region. Reconciliation and self-determination are key to this government’s commitment to Inuit and establishing Inuit leadership in the Pikialasorsuaq supports this goal. We believe that this initiative provides a unique opportunity for us to come together to strengthen oceans conservation, and build a strong, sustainable Arctic region where Inuit share in its responsible management and future opportunities.