Conservation an important path forward for Nunavut’s economy, says report

Seabirds take off from a iceberg in Tallurutiup Imanga, a marine protected area in northern Canada. A new report out Monday says marine conservation efforts in areas like this one, can play an increasingly important role in the economy of the eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Protecting and preserving the marine environment in the Arctic can play an increasingly important role in Nunavut’s economy, while at the same time safeguarding local traditions by integrating hunting, trapping, and fishing into the fabric of the territory’s development plans, says a report released on Monday. 

“For Inuit communities in Nunavut, this approach also ensures that local economic prosperity is rooted in traditional values,” said the report, put together by the Smart Prosperity Institute, a think tank at the University of Ottawa, along with the Nunavut community of Taloyoak, the Taloyoak Umaruliririgut Association (the local hunters and trappers association), and WWF⁠—Canada.

“To realize the full potential of investing in Nunavut’s blue conservation economy, there is an opportunity to learn from recent success stories and showcase the clear connection between marine
conservation and local economic development.”

Blue conservation?
Blue conversation refers to protecting oceans and other bodies of water from things like overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change. 

Case studies for success

Supporting the Inuit Guardians program is just one example of the kind of progress that has been made in recent years, said the report.

A hunter on the sea ice in the Tallurutiup Imanga protected area. (Niore Iqalukjuak/Courtesy QIA)

The Indigenous Guardians program was launched by the federal government in 2017. It’s goal was to fund Indigenous People’s conservation efforts and initiatives to protect the lands, ice and waters in their respective areas. 

No one from Hamlet of Taloyoak could be reached Monday for comment on the report and the Taloyoak Hunters and Trappers Association said no one was immediately available for an interview. But the report said the guardian program had already shown important returns.

“Investments in Inuit Guardians programs are estimated to generate similar returns to those observed elsewhere in northern Canada — more than a twofold return for every dollar of investment,” the report said.

“Guardians programs in Taloyoak and in communities around Tallurutiup Imanga are already estimated to have generated a return on investment of $27 million.”

Tallurutiup Imanga contributes about 1.9% of Canada’s total marine protected areas. (Courtesy Parks Canada)

The Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area covers 109,000 km2 in northeastern Nunavut. 

The federal government and and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) signed an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement in 2019 investing $55 million from 2019 to 2026 with $39 million going towards Inuit-led stewardship and conservation programs, the report said.

“”[Tallurutiup Imanga] demonstrates how we have a conservation initiative to protect the marine environment but that goes along with creating jobs that are tied to the protection of that area through the Guardians Program,” Erin Keenan,  Senior manager, Arctic Marine Conversation at WWF-Canada said in a phone interview.

“It’s also trying to build up other kind of economic activities in those communities through things like harbors and other types of infrastructure that can support other conservation economy type activities like fisheries and hunting activities.” 

Rethinking resource development as the only way

With conversations around economic development in the Arctic long dominated by things like resource extraction, Keenan says she hopes the report helps move the conversation towards the kinds of activities that can provide long-term sustainable development while supporting cultural protection.

“There’s an attitude that establishing a protected area, or other types of conservation activities, are going to take away jobs, or take away the opportunity for future economic development,” she said. “The biggest obstacle is an attitude that we need industrial development or we can’t address the economic challenges of Nunavut.” 

A file photo of Inuit hunters pointing to a seal hole near the Arctic Canadian community of Clyde River, Nunavut. Local Guardians can help foster the transfer of traditional knowledge, such as on-the-land survival, from Elders to youth, the report said. (Eilís Quinn / Eye on the Arctic)

Making sure local communities are involved in conservation is win-win, both for community members and the environment, Keenan said.

“Indigenous communities all across Canada are grappling with these same issues and exploring a similar model in terms of trying to create jobs in their communities through guardians programs that are tied to conserving local resources or establishing indigenous protected and conservative areas,” she said.

“And if we can follow this to where it’s really lead locally, and meeting people’s needs across a whole suite of issues, that’s also a more effective way to achieve our conservation goals.”

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: COP15: Indigenous-led conservation key to ensuring biodiversity goals says ICC, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Conservationists find more critically endangered Arctic fox cubs in Finnish Lapland, Yle News

Norway: Climate change hits back at Svalbard, coal mine flooded by melting glacier in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaOral histories unlock impact of climate change on nomadic life in Arctic Russia, says study, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Extra billions to SAS – but with stricter climate requirements, Radio Sweden

United States: Conservation groups sue government over Alaska mining road, The Associated Press

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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