Monday, August 9, 2010

Marine Mammal Protection In Canada's Lancaster Sound: Inuits work to prevent seismic surveys

In Canada's Arctic region, within the territory ceded to the Inuit Indians in 1999, lies Lancaster Sound. This remote site has become the center of a controversy between the Inuits and the Canadian federal government over proposed seismic testing surveys. Over the weekend, a judge in the northern Arctic territory known as Nunavut handed down a temporary injunction to halt all seismic testing because of its potential threat to narwhals, beluga and bowhead whales and other marine mammals within Lancaster Sound.

In commenting on her decision, Judge Susan Cooper said
“There is evidence before the court that the proposed testing areas are both calving areas and migration routes for marine mammals.”

The Inuits, who are granted the right to three whale hunts per year as a recognition of their nomadic heritage, are major supporters for the protection of Lancaster Sound. The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) was the original petitioner to the courts and, in addition to expressing concern for the fate of marine mammals, brought up the contradictory actions of the federal government regarding whether the area should be designated a marine reserve or potential oil and gas drilling site.

According to Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff, the Conservative Party-lead government is
“rushing ahead with oil exploration” in Lancaster Sound while touting plans to create a marine wildlife sanctuary in the same place. There are those critics of the government-in-power that claim that the government is trying to ascertain oil and gas deposits before potential boundaries for a marine reserve are drawn.

Chris Debicki, a member of Canada's Oceans North environmental group, says,
“We look forward to focusing our energy on the creation of a national marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound — something both the government and QIA are in agreement about — so that conflicts like this don’t arise again.”

Read article in the Montreal Gazette.

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