Exploring Lancaster Sound, a remote and biodiverse region in Canada’s high Arctic, is easier than ever thanks to a new interactive map. Watch exclusive footage, read the story behind the region and dive deeper with rich mapping features.
Lancaster Sound is gaining recognition for both its candidacy for protection as a National Marine Conservation Area, and also for the disputed oil exploration leases with the proposed boundary.
Currently unprotected, the region is home to people, polar bears, narwhals and belugas, and faces threats from oil and gas development.
For more than 30 years, communities have been working to protect the region from industrial development, and WWF is asking the Canadian government to formally announce protection for the area, and to update its records to reflect the expiry of oil exploration leases in the region that should have expired in 1979.
About Lancaster Sound
- The proposed National Marine Conservation Area has been under consideration by the federal government since the early 1970s and was initiated in response to an exploratory oil well proposal.
- Twenty per cent of the Canadian beluga whale population migrates through the area each year en route to their summering grounds.
- 70,000 narwhals, three quarters of the global population, return often to their favourite locations within the area.
- Six critically important bird areas surround it.
- It’s at the southern edge of the Last Ice Area, the only Arctic region expected to retain its summer sea ice until 2050, making it a critically important zone for the future of ice-dependent life.
Since 1996, the native people of Cape Vankarem in Russia have been working to return walruses to the area. In 2006, WWF developed the Umky Patrol, or Polar Bear Patrol Project, working to preserve walrus haul-outs and protect people from the polar bears that are attracted to the haul-outs, so all can co-exist harmoniously. Here’s how it all began.
While talking with the students about climate change and the future of sea ice, I asked them to raise their hands if they saw sea ice for the first time on this expedition.