This indicator measures the total extent marine area off the coast of the Northwest Territories (NWT) set aside for conservation purposes as protected areas.
The Government of Canada is responsible for creating protected areas in Canada's oceans. Three federal departments have the authority to create marine protected ares (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and Parks Canada). At present, existing and proposed marine protected areas off the coast of the Northwest Territories are administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
This indicator was written by the Government of the NWT, Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation Planning Section, with information from Government of Canada reports and websites and the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. It was reviewed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Western Arctic Area Oceans Program and the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada.
Beluga whales in Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Blythe Browne, 2010.
With about 1,400 km of coastline on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean, marine-based features have ecological, cultural and economic value to the NWT residents. Many species depend on both the marine and terrestrial environment. These species include polar bears (Ursus maritimus), Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and seabirds, such as thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia arra) and black guillemots (Cepphus grille). These animals and birds den or nest on land and obtain their food from the ocean. The ocean off the coastline of the NWT is the marine portion of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Several Inuvialuit communities are located on the coast and residents harvest resources of the ocean for subsistence use as a part of both their culture and current economy. Resources harvested may have a dual purpose and can be used for both for subsistence and commercial use. For example, harvesting seals provide food for subsistence as well as pelts, which form a component of the NWT arts and craft industry. There is potential in the Beaufort Sea for other industries based on both renewable resources (e.g. commercial fishing) and non-renewable resources (e.g. oil and gas extraction).
Current view: status and trend
There is one marine protected area in the coastal waters off the NWT established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) under the federal Oceans Act (1996)1. The Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area was established in 2010 as a result of a collaborative effort by DFO, the Inuvialuit, co-management bodies, private industry, local stakeholders and governments. Tarium Niryutait, about 1,800 km2 in size, is located in the Mackenzie River delta and estuary of the Beaufort Sea. The marine protected area conserves and protects biological resources and supports the viability of a healthy population of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)4.
A process is underway to establish another marine protected area in the coastal waters of the Beaufort Sea off the NWT. The Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam (i.e., Nelson Green's traditional hunting area) Area of Interest is located in Darnely Bay near Paulatuk. This area provides important habitat for Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), beluga whales, polar bears, ringed seals (Pusa hispida), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and a variety of birds. The area is culturally important to the Inuvialuit people who use it for subsistence fishing and hunting. The Area of Interest is being planned for designation by DFO as a marine protected area under the Oceans Act (1996)4.
Protection of the marine environment is also included in some Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS) administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada. In the Beaufort Sea, the Cape Parry MBS extends up to 350 m into the ocean from shore. The Kendall Island MBS is located in a delta environment and includes the water area among the islands. The Anderson River Delta MBS includes ocean area where the river delta opens into Liverpool Bay. Both Banks Island MBSs also include some bays and near shore area of the ocean.
The Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act 19842 protects a portion of Liverpool Bay by stipulating that no dredging or development activity shall be carried on in the waters there.
The marine area off the coastline of the NWT is the marine portion of the Inuvialuit Settlment Region. For marine planning purposes, this area is known as the Beaufort Sea Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA). The Beaufort Sea LOMA includes portions of three of Canada's 12 ecologically defined ocean bioregions (Map 1), which essentially overlap with three of Parks Canada's 24 ocean-based marine regions (Map 2).
At present, all of the marine protected areas in the Beaufort Sea (the Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area, the Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Area of Interest, the waters protected by MBSs and the Liverpool Bay/Husky Lakes area) fall within one of those bioregions/marine regions (see Map 3).
Map 1: Canada's Arctic Bioregions, from the National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas2.
Map 2: Parks Canada's nine Arctic marine regions used in the context of its national marine conservation areas program, from Canada's National Marine Conservation System Plan3. Map: Parks Canada, 1996.
Map 3: Marine Protected Areas in the Northwest Territories: Established and Proposed Protection.
Canada has committed to developing a national network of marine protected areas in its three oceans. The goal for Canada's marine protected areas network are described in the National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas4. The primary goal is "to provide long-term protection of marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features". The design of Canada's national network of marine protected areas is to include areas that are representative of the various ocean ecosystems.
For the purposes of planning the national network of marine protected areas, 12 broad ocean bioregions have been defined. Parks Canada had previously defined 24 smaller marine regions, which are used specifically for planning National Marine Conservation Areas5. Parks Canada has been mandated with setting up a system of marine protected areas under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (2002)6 to represent the marine ecosystems found in Canada's oceans (24 marine regions) and the Great Lakes (five marine regions). These National Marine Conservation Areas, to be established by Parks Canada, will contribute to the overall national network of marine protected areas in the 12 ocean bioregions.
Work continues on the designation of the Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Area of Interest as a marine protected area.
The next step being taken in the western Arctic towards the realization of a national network of marine protected areas is to assemble a network team. This team will be a subset of the Beaufort Sea Partnership3, the main stakeholder body responsible for integrated oceans management in the Beaufort Sea LOMA. The team will focus on the development of a marine protected area network in the western Arctic bioregion and include representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Parks Canada, the Government of the NWT, Government of Nunavut, Aboriginal organizations, co-management bodies and industry stakeholders. The Western Arctic bioregion (identified on Map 1 as bioregion #6) has been identified by DFO as a priority bioregion for the development of a conservation network. The team will determine priority areas within the bioregion requiring additional protection and determine what conservation tools can best protect these priority areas. The goal is to develop an action plan by 2019 for use to address future conservation needs.
Find out more
- Parks Canada National Marine Conservation Areas
- Canada's National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas
- Marine Protected Areas in the Beaufort Sea
Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.
Ref. 1 - Oceans Act (S.C. 1996, c.31). Retrieved from Government of Canada, Justice Laws website.
Ref. 2 - Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act (S.C. 1984, c.24). Retrieved from Government of Canada, Justice Laws website.
Ref. 3 - Beaufort Sea Partnership.
Ref. 4 - Government of Canada. 2011. National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Ottawa, ON. 31pp.
Ref. 5 - Parks Canada. Canada's National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan.
Ref. 6 - Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (S.C. 2002, c.18). Retrieved from Government and Canada, Justice Laws website.