Author :
Jeff Wells
Category :

A Proposed Marine Conservation Area along Hudson and James Bays Makes Significant Progress

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Last week, a major announcement was held in the community of Kashechewan, Ontario, led by Grand Chief Leo Friday of Mushkegowuk Council and Adam van Koeverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Chief Friday spoke on behalf of the First Nations communities who are leading the conservation decisions in their territory, while Parliamentary Secretary van Koeverden represented the Government of Canada on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honorable Steven Guilbeault     . They announced the successful completion of a feasibility assessment, which moves a huge biodiversity-rich area covering 91,000 square-kilometers (roughly the size of Maine) along the southwestern shore of James Bay and western Hudson Bay closer to being officially protected as a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). 

This region hosts an array of marine and avian wildlife and has been home to the Omushkego people for millennia. It is uniquely positioned to disperse Arctic marine water much farther south than is typical in other parts of the world. This southward expansion of Arctic water is accompanied by an extreme southerly presence of Arctic mammals, such as beluga whales, bearded seals, Arctic fox, and polar bears.

The region also provides critical breeding and migration stopover habitat for more than 170 species of birds, including millions of shorebirds and waterfowl. Each year, migratory birds flying south from their Arctic breeding grounds are funneled through Hudson Bay and James Bay where they spend several weeks acquiring the fat needed to successfully reach their southern destinations—some of which are as far as the southern tip of South America. The area plays such a critical role in the annual survival of these migratory birds, the region has been proposed as a site of hemispheric importance as a migratory stopover. This is largely because it lies on a major migration route for at least 25 shorebird species. So, we are very excited to see such positive steps toward the conservation of globally important bird habitat on the southwestern shore of James Bay and western Hudson Bay.

The importance of this marine ecosystem to birds, fish, and other wildlife has been well known by the many Indigenous communities who have inhabited the region and stewarded these lands for millennia. We congratulate the Mushkegowuk Council for their leadership on this significant step forward in the process of establishing an Indigenous-led NMCA on Weeneebeg (Cree for James Bay) and Washaybeyoh (Hudson Bay), keeping these waters vibrant and healthy for future generations. The protection of this marine ecosystem helps to conserve biodiversity and assists in the fight against climate change, moving Canada closer to its commitment to conserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030. 

 

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