As during summer sea ice is declining and industrial pressures increase, shipping traffic in the Canadian Arctic has steadily risen. This is especially true in the eastern Arctic and around the community of Pond Inlet and the Mary River iron ore mine.

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Ships sailing at the Baffinland mining operation are increasing, jumping from 10 transits in 2014 to upwards of 160 transits predicted this year. This reality has led the World Wildlife Fund Canada to publish the Eastern Arctic Mariner’s Guide, to help mariners reduce shipping disruption to wildlife and northern communities.

The guide includes the following:

  • Three large posters to be hung on a ship’s bridge: Visual identification chart that will help mariners recognize whales, seals, polar bears and walruses.
  • Maps of critical habitat, migration routes and calving areas.
  • Maps indicating designated conservation areas and ice, including community on-ice travel routes and caribou sea-ice crossings.
  • Courses of action regarding sensitive whale habitats, walrus habitat, caribou sea-ice crossings, shipping in polynyas and around floe edges, ice-breaking and Inuit travel routes as well as a tourism exclusion zone and travel speed.
  • Phone numbers so mariners can report sightings and incidents at both the national and community level, and provides operational guidance when close to or encountering marine mammals.

Tim Soucie, community-based researcher, noted:

Shipping around my community of Pond Inlet has drastically increased over the past few years, mainly due to tourism and ships servicing the Baffinland mine. Activities like these have the potential to interfere with community uses, disturbing and disrupting our ability to feed our families.

Moreover, the report describes the ways in which ship traffic impacts marine mammals:

  • Noise from ships make it difficult for whales to communicate with each other and disturb sensitive walrus habitat.
  • Passing ships can disrupt feeding patterns and will often drive marine mammals away from their usual habitat.
  • Icebreaking can damage on-ice caribou migration routes.
  • Shipping during ice formation interferes with the natural ice freeze-up, causing cracks into the new ice sheet that make it unstable.
  • Fragmented ice at the beginning of the season could postpone whale migration to wintering grounds, increasing the risk that whales will become trapped in the ice after the winter freeze-up.

For more information click in the PDF herebelow