These are turbulent times for the Arctic. Not only is it heating up about twice as quickly as the rest of the planet, causing a disastrous decline of Arctic sea ice, but it’s also increasingly vulnerable to environmental harm from activities like mining, drilling and fishing.
In hopes of buffering a swath of the Arctic from this upheaval, Canada is creating two new marine sanctuaries in the Arctic Ocean spanning a total of 427,000 square kilometers (165,000 square miles). This alone may not protect the region from climate change, but the Arctic needs all the help it can get, and well-managed ocean preserves can be a significant boost for struggling ecosystems.
And while conservation efforts sometimes clash with the needs of local people, these refuges stand out as an example for how to do it the right way, according to P.J. Akeeagok, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, who helped negotiate the protections.
“By protecting Tallurutiup Imanga, and seeking permanent protection for Tuvaijuittuq, we not only save these pristine Arctic ecosystems, but also lay the foundation for a conservation economy in sustainable industries such as fisheries,” Akeeagok says in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. “These investments in jobs and infrastructure will have profound impacts in the High Arctic and serve as a model of what can be achieved when we work as equal partners in the spirit of reconciliation.”