The government of Nunavut said it will be meeting with the federal government later this month to begin discussions on marine protected areas in the territory.
Justin Trudeau's government has promised to protect 10 per cent of Canada's coastal and marine areas by 2020. The Liberal government has also promised meaningful consultation with Inuit communities who live on the coast.
In Nunavut, the territory's land claims agreement guarantees Inuit involvement in decisions regarding the management of natural resources. Steve Pinksen, the assistant deputy minister with Nunavut's Department of Environment, says the agreement also has contingencies for marine protected areas.
"Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has a discretionary jurisdiction for approving the establishment of conservation areas on things like marine protected areas," he said.
"I know that the federal government has already spoken of the need to consult with Northerners, so that's really important."
The territorial government will have to balance environmental factors, community needs, and its desire to grow industry. Pinksen identified commercial fishing as a top priority for the government.
"In any place where they're looking at marine protected areas that may affect the fishing industry, we certainly have a very high interest in that discussion," he said.
Pinksen says the territorial government has been collecting traditional knowledge about marine and coastal environments in Nunavut for several years, through a project called the Nunavut Coastal Resources Inventory.
To date, the territorial government has been able to collect information from 18 Nunavut communities — information they hope to use when specific areas are being considered for protection.