One Year Later, Bowhead Whale Sanctuary and Wildlife Area Not Yet Official

An anniversary party is being planned by Inuit groups near the site of the future Niginganiq (Isabella Bay) National Wildlife Area, in part to nudge the feds into finally making the protected area official one year after its creation was announced. From the CBC:

The party will mark one year since the federal government signed an …agreement for the 336,200-hectare Niginganiq site.

Located in Isabella Bay, on the northeast coast of Baffin Island, the Niginganiq National Wildlife Area will protect the essential feeding and resting grounds for thousands of bowhead whales.

One year later, the sanctuary has yet to become a reality since the government still has to give it the official stamp of approval.

[Inuit land-claims group] Nunavut Tunngavik president Paul Kaludjak told CBC News that it has been a long wait — one that could get even longer if a federal election is called this fall, he said.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 whales inhabit the Niginganiq area during the late summer and fall feeding periods. The party is planned to take place in the hamlet of Clyde River, where residents have been trying to gain protection for the area since 1998.

Some of Canada’s best wildlife habitat has been set aside in a network of 51 national wildlife areas and 92 migratory bird sanctuaries that span all provinces and territories. Yet these protected areas are left largely unmanaged, and enforcement of environmental laws is sporadic. Wildlife research is only conducted regularly in a handful of locations.

At the heart of this crisis is a lack of funding. Environment Canada, the federal manager of the NWA network, lacks even the basic level of funding to properly manage existing protected areas. Other major threats loom, including deforestation, oil and gas development, urbanization, invasive species, pollution, harmful public uses and climate change.

Nature Canada has called on the Government of Canada to announce a funded plan to grow and manage Canada’s network of National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, including updating its legal and policy framework (find out more).