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Towards a marine conservation area in Northern Ontario

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb22,2024

Towards a marine conservation area in Northern Ontario

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Polar bears are among the species that we wish to protect thanks to the marine conservation area north of the Ontario.

The Canadian Press

A vast marine area off Ontario's northern coast that is home to endangered beluga whales and polar bears could soon be protected, officials said Wednesday, as First Nations welcomed what was seen as a key step toward fulfilling a long-standing promise of a treaty.

The federal government and nine First Nations say they have overcome a hurdle in the path to protecting part of southern Hudson Bay and western James Bay as x27;national marine conservation area.

After studying the feasibility of the project, representatives from Ottawa and the First Nations declared that x27;they supported the idea and were moving forward with negotiations.

Grand Chief Leo Friday of the Mushkegowuk Council called this an important first step toward recognizing First Nations as managers of their traditional lands and waters.

These are the things that we think our ancestors said we are trying to achieve, he emphasized in an interview before Wednesday's announcement.

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The proposal would see Parks Canada and First Nations work on a co-governance model protecting a marine area of ​​approximately 86,000 square kilometers, slightly larger than Lake Superior, and guaranteeing First Nations rights to fish, hunt and trap.

The Mushkegowuk Council has long advocated for the protection of the lowlands and marine ecosystems of Hudson Bay and James Bay, which Omushkego residents call Washabeyoh and Weeneebeg.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">For now, we're just borrowing the tools from the Europeans, Grand Chief Friday said, referring to the federal conservation designation.

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The conservation area as it was presented in 2021 . (Stock image)

The federal government has pledged in 2021 to add 10 marine conservation areas over five years, doubling its current total, as part of a key biodiversity target to protect 30% of land and of Canada's waters by 2030.

With this project being the most advanced of seven marine conservation proposals underway in the country, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he remains confident in the government's ability to achieve its objectives. p>

Our best ally in the fight against climate change is nature, he said. So the more we can invest in protecting nature, the more we can improve the capacity of our ecosystems to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Marine conservation areas generally prohibit any oil, gas or mining exploration and exploitation. They also impose strict limits on discarding at sea and other activities, such as bottom trawling gear.

The The study area is home to some of the largest populations of beluga whales in the world and the southernmost population of polar bears. It is also a place of choice for migratory birds.

Parks Canada spokesperson Caroline Macintosh called Wednesday's announcement an important milestone.

[This] is a testament to the hard work the Omushkego people have done to protect this area. And this sets the stage for us to work together, to truly put this area under permanent protection for future generations, said Macintosh, Executive Director of Protected Area Creation.

A committee made up of representatives from Mushkegowuk Council and Parks Canada recommended a two-phase approach to establishing the conservation area.

The council, representing seven First Nations, is participating in the project with the Weenusk and Fort Severn First Nations.

The first phase would consist of protecting the offshore marine area under federal jurisdiction. A second phase would aim to protect intertidal zones and up to 20 kilometers inland from the coast that fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Steven Guilbeault clarified that there have been numerous attempts to contact the province about the project, adding that he would unfortunately characterize this (…) as a lack of interest.

He recalled that the door is always open to the province, emphasizing that the federal government did not need its participation in the marine protected zone , but he would be happy to have her participate.

And, it is certain that, for terrestrial projects, we need their involvement. They must be at the table. And so far, when it comes to Northern Ontario, they haven't shown much interest, said Mr. Guilbeault during a interview before the announcement.

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Steven Guilbeault believes that the province could be more interested in the marine conservation area project.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks said the province has not participated in detailed discussions with Parks Canada or Environment and Climate Change Canada due to the brings national marine conservation areas under the jurisdiction of the federal government. #x27;a moratorium on development activities in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region of Northern Ontario until sensitive wetlands and watersheds are protected.

The Hudson Bay Lowlands constitute one of the largest intact peatland complexes in the world, storing 30 to 35 billion tons of carbon.

Offshore, tens of thousands of beluga whales migrate to Hudson Bay and James Bay from the Arctic each summer, congregating around estuaries like the Severn and Winisk rivers in northern Ontario. ;Ontario, to feed on fish runs.

Independent scientific reports affirm that the beluga populations covered by the proposed conservation area are robust, but rapid climate change brings new threats.

Reducing sea ice gives ships unprecedented access to the Arctic and the Subarctic, leading to more noise and chemical exposure, as well as an increased risk of oil spills, according to a recent assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The survival of polar bears in southern Hudson Bay and James Bay is also threatened by rapid warming in the Arctic, reducing the time they can spend hunting on receding sea ice.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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