© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock/WWF-Canada

As Arctic melt accelerates, Canada moves to protect 'The Last Ice Area'

1 August 2019

Governance The Last Ice Area Arctic Climate Change Canada

Tuvaijuittuq is set to become one of the world’s biggest conservation areas

Iqaluit, July 31, 2019

After months of bad northern climate-change news — Canada’s Arctic warming at three times the global rate, permafrost melting 70 years ahead of predictions, the worst polar wildfire season on record — plans have now moved forward to protect Tuvaijuittuq. Meaning “the ice never melts” in Inuktitut, it’s a globally important area in the Canadian High Arctic almost the size of Germany.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, working with the governments of Canada and Nunavut, has led the charge to make Tuvaijuittuq a 322,000 sq. km interim Marine Protected Area with an impact benefit agreement that delivers on their promise of a conservation economy. This will ensure that communities will benefit culturally and economically from protecting this marine area. A five-year feasibility study will then look at permanently protecting it from future threats such as oil and gas development.

Tuvaijuittuq is part of what WWF-Canada coined the Last Ice Area, a polar region above Nunavut and Greenland where scientists project sea ice will persist the longest in the face of a warming world.

Thanks to the thickness of multi-year pack ice and North America’s last remaining ice shelves, it could become a final refuge for sea ice-dependent species like narwhal, polar bear, walrus, seal and beluga as well as the under-ice algae that fuels the entire Arctic food web. The Last Ice Area is a vital climate adaptation effort. But to truly protect Arctic communities and species, Canada and the world must address the cause of our climate crisis — too much carbon in the atmosphere. 

WWF-Canada looks forward seeing Tuvaijuittuq join the nearby Tallurutiup Imanga national marine conservation area, formerly known as Lancaster Sound, to create a massive safe habitat for Arctic wildlife and the Inuit communities that they sustain.

Paul Okalik, senior advisor Arctic conservation, WWF-Canada:

“WWF-Canada congratulates the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for their vision. This deal will turn Tuvaijuittuq into one of the world’s largest conservation areas while also supporting local food security, infrastructure and employment needs.”

Megan Leslie, president and CEO, WWF-Canada:

“As the Arctic is warming almost three times faster than our rapidly warming planet, protecting the ‘Last Ice Area’ for communities and sea ice-dependent species has long been a focus of WWF-Canada’s Arctic work, including helping to establish the Tallurutiup Imanga marine protected area. We could not be happier to see progress on offering similar protections in Tuvaijuittuq, a region which will only become increasingly vital locally, nationally and globally as the climate crisis worsens.”

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For further information

Joshua Ostroff, communications specialist, jostroff@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-529-2967

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