December 06, 2010 14:09 ET

WWF Welcomes Boundary Consultations for Lancaster Sound Marine Conservation Area

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 6, 2010) - WWF-Canada welcomes Government's announcement today to advance the creation of a National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound, through consultations on eventual boundaries and interim protection during the consultations.

"We welcome this significant announcement and stress that the boundary consultation is the important next step in conserving this globally significant arctic marine ecosystem, which is facing unprecedented change," said Gerald Butts, WWF-Canada's President and CEO.

WWF-Canada looks forward to the opportunity to play an active role in the consultations, alongside Inuit organizations, local communities and other stakeholders, and calls for sufficient resources to support the process both now and over the long term. The intention to develop a National Marine Conservation Area off the north coast of Baffin Island was first announced a year ago; today's step expedites the creation of a marine sanctuary by launching consultations on borders and suspending petroleum exploration and development within Government's proposed borders during the consultations.

The region, historical hunting and fishing grounds for local Inuit, is one of the most productive and important marine ecosystems in the circumarctic, particularly in the larger geographical context of Northwater Polynya. The circulation patterns of water and nutrients, combined with seasonal sea-ice and temperature dynamics, produce ideal conditions for ice-adapted species ranging from phytoplankton under the ice to marine mammals and humans occupying the top of the arctic food chain.

Globally significant populations of narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales, walrus, polar bear, ringed, bearded and harp seals, together with migratory birds, use these productive areas. However, climate change is rapidly melting the sea-ice, creating unprecedented challenges to both Inuit and wildlife populations. It's unclear how well arctic marine life can adapt to retreating ice.

"Demonstrating responsible stewardship must be a key component of Canada's Arctic policy and management framework," said WWF-Canada's Arctic program director Martin von Mirbach, in welcoming today's announcement. "Establishing a robust Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound will be a significant step forward in that regard."

This news release and associated material can be found on wwf.ca.

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