The Inuit Circumpolar Council has struck a special commission to consult Inuit on how to save the North Water Polynya — the world's largest body of open water in the High Arctic.
Polynya are areas of year-round open water surrounded by sea ice. The North Water Polynya — traditionally known as Pikialasorsuaq — between Ellesmere Island and Greenland is approximately 85,000 square kilometres in size and is a critical habitat for many species Inuit depend on, such as narwhal and beluga.
The Pikialaorsuaq Commission will consist of Okalik Eegeesiak, the international chairperson of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, as well as former Nunavut premier Eva Aariak and former Greenland premier Kuupik Kleist.
"We will be going to communities to consult with Inuit and hunters who occupy the area to get their suggestions and provide direction on how they want the area co-managed," said Eegeesiak. "If they want it protected... how do we do that?"
The Inuit Circumpolar Councils of both Canada and Greenland, as well as environmental groups, will participate in the commission.
Eegeesiak said the commission plans to visit High Arctic communities in Canada this spring before heading to Greenland in the summer months, following ice break-up.