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Once negotiations are complete, Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area near Qikiqtarjuaq will provide protected nesting grounds for the Northern fulmar. The park is one of three sanctuaries on Baffin Island that are expected to be created. Akpait is also located near Qikiqtarjuaq while Igaliqtuuq is located near Clyde River.

Wildlife sanctuaries in the works

Jennifer Geens
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (July 18/05) - Three new wildlife sanctuaries on the east coast of Baffin Island are in the final stages of a six-year negotiation.

Igaliqtuuq National Wildlife Area, in Isabella Bay near Clyde River, will protect a population of endangered bowhead whales.

Qaqulluit and Akpait National Wildlife Areas, near Qikiqtarjuaq, will protect the breeding areas of two bird species, the Northern fulmar and the thick-billed murre.

The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, required under the Nunavut land claim agreement, is almost complete. But Vicky Johnston of the Canadian Wildlife Service, one of the agreement negotiators, couldn't estimate when the process would be complete.

She said they were still working out a way of dealing with inflation before the agreement goes to a legal and technical review, followed by ratification.

Igaliqtuuq will be the largest of the three protected areas, at 3,362 square kilometres, including shoreline and islands, but mostly ocean habitat.

Joelie Sanguya of Clyde River, another negotiator, said people in the community are looking forward to becoming a base for eco-tourism and whale research. Some have suggested building trails to the park, constructing a safe docking area within the often foggy park or a new airstrip.

Not having negotiated anything before, he began lobbying for a national wildlife area 20 years ago, Sanguya didn't realize how lengthy the process would be.

"I had absolutely no idea it would take this long," said Sanguya.

But all of the community's opportunities and projects that involve the park are on hold until the paperwork is finalized.

"Come on," said Sanguya. "Let's get this thing on the road."

Bowhead whales common

Bowhead whales are a common sight in Clyde River. They can also be a safety hazard in the Baffin Bay area - once in a while they capsize boats.

Some scientists estimate the bowhead whale can live up to 200 years, making it one of the longest living animals on Earth.

The oldest whale the people of Clyde River know of is the one they've named Naluaqtalik, or "One who has bleached skin," because of its white head and tail, Sanguya said.

Its distinctive appearance means it gets noticed, and people have been noticing it for years.

Unlike the bowhead whale, neither of the bird species in the Qikiqtarjuaq wildlife areas is endangered.

"You don't want to wait until there's a threat," said Kevin McCormick of the Canadian Wildlife Service. He added that the length of time it takes to legally designate a sanctuary requires acting well in advance.