Ottawa (August 22, 2008) –Nature Canada today congratulated the Government of Canada, the community of Clyde River and the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated upon the announcement that Canada will protect more than 450,000 hectares of Arctic wilderness in Nunavut, including a globally significant Important Bird Area, by establishing three new National Wildlife Areas: Niginganiq (Isabella Bay); Qaqulluit (Cape Searle); and Akpait (Reid Bay). All three sites are located on the northeast side of Baffin Island in Nunavut.
“This is great news for Canada’s birds, biodiversity and the cause of wilderness preservation,” said Julie Gelfand, president of Nature Canada. “Two of Canada’s Important Bird Areas are found within the Qaqulluit and Akpait NWAs announced today. This means critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be preserved.”
Nature Canada has long argued that National Wildlife Areas are an essential tool for protecting Canada’s migratory birds and endangered species. Habitat for several Arctic marine species stand to be set aside with the Government’s announcement, including endangered bowhead whales, harp seals, walruses, and the largest Canadian colony of Northern Fulmar, a stocky, gull-like seabird.
“We are extremely pleased to see the Government take the all important first step of officially designating three new wildlife areas,” said Gelfand. “With this announcement, however, should come a commitment to provide the ongoing funding required to properly manage the entire system of National Wildlife Areas in Canada well into the future,” said Gelfand.
“Currently nearly 12 million hectares of wilderness are being managed on less than $4 million dollars annually, which is a tiny fraction of what is needed to properly address management concerns and protect wildlife populations,” said Gelfand.
The Akpait NWA is located about 45 km south of Qaqulluit along the coast, and 37 north of the closest community, Cape Dyer. The headland is composed of towering basaltic cliffs up to 800 m high, which are broken up into ridges and pointed pinnacles separated by deep gullies. This foreboding headland is home to over one percent of the world population of Thick-billed Murre (about 200,000) as well as large numbers of Northern Fulmar and Black-legged Kittiwakes. It is unusual for the eastern arctic, in that it is one of only two locations where Thick-billed Murres, Northern Fulmars and Black-legged Kittiwakes breed together. Part of the NWA has been identified as an Important Bird Area. Visit www.ibacanada.ca for more information.
The Qaqulluit NWA is located on the northeastern tip of Qaqaluit, a small island off the eastern coast of Baffin Island. The rugged Cape is comprised of two huge, jagged outcrops that rise to over 430 m above the sea. Harp seals and walruses frequent the area and polar bears are occasionally present. The two rock towers of Cape Searle support approximately 100,000 pairs of nesting Northern Fulmar, the largest colony in Canada and 33% of the Canadian population. Fulmars arrive at the colonies by mid-April and leave by early October. While at the colonies they forage within an 80 km radius of the site. The Reid Bay Important Bird Area makes up part of this NWA. Visit www.ibacanada.ca for more information.
Niginganiq NWA on Baffin Island contains critical summer habitat for the eastern Arctic population of Bowhead Whales. Clyde River residents live near Igaliqtuuq, the single most important habitat for the bowheads. In the late-summer the site is home of 100 bowhead whales, the largest known concentration of the endangered Baffin Bay - Davis Strait bowhead population. The deep troughs in this area support huge blooms of plankton on which the bowheads feed prior to their winter fast. The entire coastal area in this region is pristine at present, and supports intact populations of many Arctic marine species. The bowhead whale makes its home exclusively in the Arctic, and can reach more than 200 years in age, making it the longest-lived of any wild vertebrate species. The whale is listed as endangered on the Canadian List of Species at Risk and is in need of extremely careful management to ensure its survival.
President, Nature Canada
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