Bowhead whale sanctuary created in Nunavut



Posted on 25 May 2011  | 
In a campaign spanning 26 years, WWF-Canada worked with the Inuit community of Clyde River to create Canada’s first national Marine Wildlife Area. Also known as Niginganiq, this extensive area off the coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut, became a sanctuary for bowhead whales in 2008.

“Isabella Bay is a pristine late summer and fall, feeding and resting stop for many of the Davis Strait-Baffin Bay bowhead whale population,” Mike Russill, then CEO of WWF-Canada said at the time. “This is not only a day to celebrate the protection of the threatened bowhead whale, but also to celebrate a community effort led from the beginning by the Inuit of Clyde River.”

At the community’s request, WWF-Canada invested over $1 million for scientific studies and to support Inuit requests for protection of this important area. WWF also negotiated with all levels of government and Inuit organisations to develop a management plan for this magnificent northern bay.

The sanctuary includes two deep offshore troughs that are rich in a type of crustacean known as copepods which are a main food source for the 18 metre-long, 70-tonne bowhead whale. A shallow shelf at the entrance to the bay provides protection from predatory orca whales.

Polar bears, ringed seals, Arctic char, halibut, narwhal, Canada geese, snow geese and king eider also benefit from the sanctuary.


Also referred to as Isabella Bay or Igaliqtuuq, an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 bowhead whales stop over in Niginganiq. Bowhead whales can live for over 200 years, making them the longest-lived wild mammal on the planet.
 Thought to once number in the tens of thousands, surveys from 2003 found an estimated 1,500-2,000 bowheads in the Davis Strait-Baffin Bay population. The decline was brought about through unregulated commercial whaling of the 18th & 19th centuries.

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