Canadian ice areas noted for natural heritage valueArctic environment of universal importance: UNESCO report
Northern News Services
Monday, April 24, 2017
Two ice areas in the Canadian Arctic have been recognized as worthwhile international heritage sites in a report released by the UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council earlier in April.
A UNESCO report has recognized two Canadian ice areas as deserving of world heritage status, the Remnant Arctic Multi-Year Sea Ice and the Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion, which includes the Canadian Arctic archipelago and the North Water Polynya; and, the North Baffin Bay Ecoregion, which includes Lancaster Sound. - photo courtesy of WWF
Canadian sites are noted as: Remnant Arctic Multi-Year Sea Ice and the Northeast Water Polynya Ecoregion, which includes the Canadian Arctic archipelago and the North Water Polynya; and, the North Baffin Bay Ecoregion, which includes Lancaster Sound.
The report recognizes seven sites within the Arctic Ocean. Titled Natural Marine World Heritage in the Arctic Ocean, the report is the result of an expert roundtable discussion in Paris in February 2016.
The two Canadian sites are considered a safe haven for ice-dependent species still adapting to the changing climate. The areas have been recommended for protection by WWF for the past decade.
"The last ice area is a crucial habitat for many of Canada's ice-dependent species, including polar bears, walrus, seals, narwhals, belugas and bowhead whales. This winter we once again saw a record low amount of sea ice formed in the Arctic," stated WWF-Canada president David Miller on April 4.
"Modeling and projections show that as climate change decreases, this is the area where it will be most resistant, this is the area where it will last the longest," said Clive Tesar, spokesperson for the WWF Arctic Program, who was present for the Paris workshops.
He said while the report strengthens current efforts to have Lancaster Sound or the Bowhead Whale Sanctuary granted more protection, it is in fact just a report.
"To be declared a world heritage site, a place must have some existing conservation measures," he said, such as status as a park, a migratory bird or marine protected area.
"Both Canada and Greenland need to look at putting some conservation management measurements in place in that region, upon which a world heritage site could then be built," he said.
Parks Canada has set up an advisory committee to look at sites that have been advanced as potential world heritage sites.
Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern also attended the Paris meeting to ensure there was Northern representation from Canada.
She noted that while the report is promising, when it comes to granting special designations, the natural Northern environment shouldn't be separated from Northerners themselves.
"It's incredibly important that there be an adequate process to ensure there is true, Northern and indigenous engagement before any such recommendations or decisions are made," she said.
"Special designations can have impact on development, for shipping, fisheries, other resource uses. It's incredibly important that Inuit be part of those discussions and that community views are considered in the final discussion."
As an example of failing in this consultation, she noted the federal decision to enforce a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic without consultation with Northern groups, a move she said left Northern leaders "shocked and surprised." She also called such consultation constitutionally protected as specified by the Nunavut Agreement.
An Inuit-led group called the Pikialasorsuaq Commission, including representatives from both Canada and Greenland, has been working to assess and develop a management body for the North Water Polynya and Ice Arch.
"We heard from all communities that the larger cultural region surrounding the Pikialasorsuaq is influenced by the health of the Pikialasorsuaq," said Canadian commissioner Eva Aariak, on Feb 24.