“When you’re there it’s very quiet. It’s so beautiful. When you’re on the ice it feels so solid, like concrete,” says Paul Okalik, the senior adviser for Arctic conservation at the World Wildlife Fund and former premier of the Canadian province Nunavut.
Tuvaijuittuq, he says, “is like no other place on Earth.”
Now the far northern Canadian Arctic region is set to remain pristine thanks to an agreement reached between the Canadian government and Qikiqtani Inuit Assocation (QIA).
“Freezing any new human activities will help ensure the ice that never melts will remain true to its name,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Thursday press conference in the Nunavut city of Iqaluit.
Countries vary in their definitions of what constitutes a Marine Protected Area (MPA). In Canada, the designation closes off water from mining, oil, and gas extraction, dumping, and fishing with a method called trawling. Canada’s MPA standards are new, published this past April after official recommendations were made by a panel of experts.
Environmentalists say guarding this region from industrial activity will be a refuge for walruses, polar bears, seals, and narwhals as the Arctic ice becomes increasingly unstable.
The Canadian government creates MPAs by first placing the selected region under an interim protected period while it finalizes terms of the protected space. In addition to the plan to conserve Tuvaijuittuq, Trudeau also announced the official establishment of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.