In Nunavut, approximately 23.4 million hectares (10% of the territory as of 2010) are designated as protected. Environment Canada maintains 16 protected areas in Nunavut, including 5 National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and 11 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs), comprising almost 10 million hectares of the territory's protected lands and waters. Of these 11 MBSs, Boatswain Bay and Hannah Bay, both located in James Bay, share boundaries with two provinces. While the marine portion of these sanctuaries is part of Nunavut, their land portions are located in Quebec (for Boatswain Bay MBS) and Ontario (for Hannah Bay MBS). Nunavut is also the location of the largest protected area in Canada – the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which covers, more than 6 million hectares of marine and terrestrial habitat.

Map of Environment Canada's Protected Areas in Nunavut

Map of protected areas in Nunavut. (11) Seymour Island MBS (9) Prince Leopold Island MBS (2) Bylot Island MBS (10) Queen Maud Gulf MBS (7) Harry Gibbons  MBS (5) East Bay  MBS (4) Dewey Soper MBS (8) McConnell River  MBS (1) Akimiski Island MBS (3) Boatswain Bay  MBS (6) Hannah Bay MBS (3) Nirjutiqavvik (Coburg Island) NWA (2) Ninginganiq NWA (5) Qaqulluit  NWA (1) Akpait NWA (4) Polar Bear Pass NWA

Long description for the Map

Map showing the number of Environment Canada’s protected areas in Nunavut - 16 in total divided among 5 National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and 11 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs).

National Wildlife Areas
Réserves nationales de faune (5)

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
Refuge d'oiseaux migrateurs (11)

List of Protected Areas in Nunavut

The tables below contain information about the NWAs and MBSs shown on the map above. In addition to the name, year of establishment, and size of each protected area, the tables indicate how these sites fit into national and international networks of conservation areas. The following entities may be noted:

Ramsar: Wetland of International Importance
IBA: Important Bird Area
WHSRN: Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
MAB: Biosphere reserve of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme

This table provides information on the national wildlife areas such as the name of the area, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes.

National Wildlife Areas
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Akpait NWA201079,146
2Ninginganiq NWA2010336,397-
3Nirjutiqavvik NWA (Coburg Island)1995178,328
4Polar Bear Pass NWA1985263,648
5Qaqulluit NWA201039,821

This table provides information on migratory bird sanctuaries such as the name of sanctuary, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Akimiski Island MBS1941353,421
2Bylot Island MBS19651,282,731
3Boatswain Bay MBS19416,736
  • only the marine portion is located in Nunavut, the terrestrial portion being located in Quebec (total area of the MBS = 16,352 hectares)
  • part of Boatswain Bay IBA
4Dewey Soper MBS1957816,599
5East Bay MBS1959112,811
6Hannah Bay MBS19396,099
7Harry Gibbons MBS1959143,811
8McConnell River MBS196036,803
9Prince Leopold Island MBS199230,399
10Queen Maud Gulf MBS19616,292,818
11Seymour Island MBS19755,302

N. B. More information on  Important Areas for Birds in Nunavut is available in the Environment Canada’s publications catalogue.

Access and Permitting

The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats, and therefore most NWAs are not equipped with facilities to accommodate public visitation. Unless otherwise posted, all recreational activities are prohibited within NWAs.

Similarly, the primary intent of MBSs these sanctuaries is to protect migratory birds, and therefore hunting, as well as disturbing or molesting migratory birds, their eggs, nests or habitat, is prohibited.

For NWAs and MBSs located in Nunavut, access is restricted. To access or conduct any activity in a NWA or a MBS located in the Nunavut Settlement Area (NSA), all non-beneficiaries require a permit as per the process laid out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. This process will help inform the decision from the Minister of the Environment whether a permit will be issued or not.

A permit authorizing the conduct of certain activities in an NWA or a MBS, may be obtained, if the Minister or delegate is of the opinion that the proposed activity:

  • will not interfere with the conservation of wildlife; or
  • is consistent with the purpose for which the protected area was established; and
  • is consistent with the management plan for the protected area.

Contact Information

Additional information on entry, prohibited activities and permits in Environment Canada's protected areas is provided on the Management and Activities web pages of the National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. For more information on Environment Canada's protected areas in Nunavut, please contact the regional Environment Canada office:

Environment Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas & Stewardship
Eastern Arctic Unit
P. O. Box 1714
Iqaluit, Nunavut
X0A 0H0
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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