New Arctic Conservation Area
Just days before the United Nations climate change meetings in Cancun Mexico, the Canadian federal government announced a plan to designate an area north of Nunavut’s Baffin Island as a marine conservation area, reports The Globe & Mail. This area would be approximately twice the size of Lake Erie and protected against any seismic testing (especially from oil and gas exploration).
The waters between Baffin and Devon Islands are feeding and breeding territory for mammals such as walruses, seals, polar bears, narwhals and belugas and bowhead whales to feed and breed. Large numbers of seabirds nest in the region. Protecting the richness of Lancaster Sound is essential to the health of Canada’s Arctic and also shows Canada’s commitment to combating climate change.
Earlier this summer Inuit leaders and environmentalists everywhere were shocked when the Canadian federal government gave permission to scientists to begin seismic testing of the area’s ocean floor. Two years ago the United States Geological Survey estimated that 90 billion barrels of oil at the bottom of the ocean floor. In August the Nunavut Court of Justice, however, granted an injunction that prevented the seismic exploration since the testing posed too many dangers to northern mammals.
The federal government has now decided to spend the time and money to protect the area from future exploration. The Environment Minister John Baird has even gone as far as stating that the government may even widen the drilling ban after consultation with the Inuit groups, the government of Nunavut and environmental groups, reports the Toronto Sun.
The federal government’s announcement comes just days before Mr. Baird’s departure to Mexico, where Canada is working with Japan and Russia to battle an extension of the Kyoto Accord. After Canada’s poor performance in Copenhagen, Mr. Baird recently stated that this announcement sends a clear signal to the world that Canada is committed to the environment.