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Marine council needed to protect Arctic waters: Nunavut official

A dramatic increase in the number of ships travelling through Canada's Arctic waters has one Nunavut environmental official questioning the effectiveness of Canada's efforts to protect the region.

A dramatic increase in the number of ships travelling through Canada's Arctic waters has one Nunavut environmental official questioning the effectiveness of Canada's efforts to protect the region.

Currently a confusing web of legislation and regulators covers the protection of Arctic marine, wildlife and heritage sites, says Ryan Barry of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

A more effective approach, he said Wednesday, would be through the establishment of a Nunavut marine council, which the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement of 1993 called for to regulate Arctic marine development.

Representatives from Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board would make up the council.

"So something like the marine council is valuable because it brings together several bodies to speak with one voice, as opposed to fragmented responsibilities and recommendations coming in," said Barry.

But the council still hasn't formed, Barry said, due in part to a lack of funding from the federal government, despite what the coast guard estimates is a 30 per cent increase in vessel traffic last year.

"There's an increasing need for a way to address these marine issues related to shipping, and the marine council certainly is a provision of the land claim that was put there in order to deal with that."

In addition to the tugboats and mining vessels that enter Canada's Northwest Passage, an estimated all-time high of eight foreign pleasure craft are currently somewhere in the passage, according to NORDREG, the Transport Canada agency that monitors Arctic Ocean traffic.

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