Conservation groups hope to educate Canadians with new Arctic marine atlas

A polar bear in the Arctic. Set against the backdrop of diminishing sea ice, Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas compiles complex scientific information into an accessible volume that can be read in English, French or Inuktitut. (David Goldman/AP/Canadian Press)
Faced with dramatic shifts in the Arctic due to joint pressures of climate change and industrial development, a trio of Canadian NGOs released Monday an educational tool they hope will help shape the conversation about protecting the region’s fragile environment and its Indigenous peoples.

The 122-page trilingual – English, French and Inuktitut – Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas released by Oceans North, Ducks Unlimited Canada and World Wildlife Fund- Canada provides a comprehensive overview of complex interactions between humans and various Arctic marine species.

“We’re pleased to offer this first-of-its-kind resource to help educate Canadians about the Arctic marine environment,” said in a statement Louie Porta, vice-president of operations for Oceans North. “Fact-based conservation measures are essential to ensuring a healthy Arctic Ocean for generations to come.”

The atlas begins its discussion of industrial development and conservation management in the Canadian Arctic with a focus on Inuit and their reliance on the ocean for hunting and travel.

This Arctic Fishes Food Web shows the movement of energy through key Arctic marine and anadromous fish species and how each species is interconnected. (Oceans North)

“While recognizing what is known, it is important to understand that Canada’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented ecological change,” Mary Simon, the veteran Inuit and Canadian political leader, writes in the foreword to the atlas.

“At the same time, the region is facing a new generation of geopolitical and industrial interests that will have a direct impact on the future of Inuit Nunangat and its 53 communities.”

Various species

The atlas surveys species ranging from cold-water corals to bowhead whales and describes the region’s physical oceanography and biosphere, from the bottom of the food chain up through fish, birds and marine mammals.

The atlas includes seven chapters with a total of 67 images, 77 maps, 33 scientific illustrations and three food-web graphics.

“The Arctic is undergoing rapid change, attracting attention from nations and corporations eyeing its business potential,” said in a statement Paul Crowley, head of Arctic conservation for WWF-Canada. “We have an opportunity here to get it right, and that starts with understanding the marine environment through the eyes of the people who rely on it and the wildlife that make it home.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Which marine mammal is most vulnerable to Arctic vessels?, CBC News

Finland: Endangered Finnish seal population slowly recovering, Yle News

Iceland: Scientists puzzled by right whale’s appearance off Iceland, CBC News

Norway: Polar bears greatly exposed to toxic chemicals in eastern Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Arctic nuclear dump could become promising fishing area, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Poachers suspected behind dwindling wolf numbers in Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Communities wrestle with shark-bite mystery off Alaskan coast, Eye on the Arctic

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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