The Nunavut Settlement Area (NSA) comprises the major part of the Territory of Nunavut. It encompasses an area spanning more than 1.9 million square kilometres, including the marine areas of the Arctic Archipelago and the 12-mile territorial sea adjacent to Nunavut. In addition, approximately 43 percent of Canada’s ocean coastline is found within the NSA - 104,000 out of a total of 243,000 kilometres.
Inuit are primarily a maritime people, and consider themselves to be an integral part of the ecosystems in which they live and carry out their traditional activities. Most wildlife species are actively harvested by Inuit, who depend on maintaining healthy wildlife populations to sustain local food security and culture. As there are no roads connecting Nunavut communities to one another or to southern Canada, communities in Nunavut are resupplied with fuel, food and other materials annually from barges and sealifts from southern Canada. Travel between communities often occurs by boat or kayak in summer months, or by snowmobile or dog team while the sea is frozen. The land, sea and ice of Nunavut form one continuous area of activity in which Nunavummiut (residents of Nunavut) enjoy, and will continue to seek, cultural, social and economic fulfillment.
Nunavut’s marine areas provide important habitat to numerous wildlife species, such as whales, walrus, fish, migratory birds, etc., many of which rely on these areas for important stages of their life cycles. While many of these marine wildlife species are important for Inuit harvesting, commercial fisheries exist in Nunavut for turbot, Greenland Halibut (Turbot), Arctic Char and Northern Shrimp. These fisheries play an increasingly important role in Nunavut’s economy.
Despite the real connection of Nunavummiut to the marine environment the territory’s significant coastline and importance to Canadian sovereignty, Nunavut has considerably less marine infrastructure than any other Canadian jurisdiction. Nunavut currently has no deep sea ports at any of its 26 communities and only one small craft harbour, in Pangnirtung. Public investments in port-related infrastructure are urgently needed to enable Nunavut to catch up with the rest of Canada and will be required to strengthen the foundation of its fishing industry, particularly the small-boat sector.