Inuit urge protection and preparation now – To avoid paying the ultimate cost

Press release from the Inuit Circumpolar Council


(February 18, 2020) Inuit voices were among those sounding an early warning regarding climate change many years ago, before the world started to heed the warnings of scientists around the globe. Then, and now, Inuit are witnessing firsthand the changes occurring in the Arctic and in our communities. Increasingly more ships are coming to the Arctic – as the earth’s climate changes, ice recedes, waterways open. Inuit involvement in marine management by working with industry and governments to protect our ecosystems today and into the future is crucial.

“As Inuit, we are the custodians of this region and in turn, it provides for our needs, now and in the future. We continue to depend on the marine environment; we live on the coast, ocean, and rely on the sea ice.”
– Aluki Kotierk, President, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated

Inuit communities depend on markets to the south for many of our goods, yet it is equally true that Inuit communities continue to rely on the abundance provided by our lands and waters. In this context, the need for safe and economically sound shipping and transportation routes to move people and goods to and from our homeland is undeniable. We need to develop in a responsible manner.

The main concerns relating to the use of Heavy Fuel Oil by container ship are persistent contamination to the people and communities in the event of an oil spill, as there are currently no effective way to deal with an HFO spill in the Arctic, and the effects of black carbon emissions. As such, for over 15 years, ICC has engaged in discussions on safe Arctic shipping at the Arctic Council and recently through the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Since 2006, shipping traffic through Nunavut waters has increased by 63%. There is no doubt that this puts pressure on the marine environment and Inuit way of life. To better monitor the increased traffic, NTI in 2017 established the Inuit Marine Monitoring Project to collect marine traffic data, to organize and utilize Inuit knowledge and to provide NTI and other Inuit organizations with the data needed for effective planning. Further, since 2009 Inuit from all four countries helped to develop the recommendations in the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, specifically on enhancing oil spill prevention and the need to introduce environmental regulations on black carbon emissions, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide. The 2018 ICC General Assembly in Utqiaġvik recommended that ICC, “advocate for the enforcement of the IMO Polar Code, other international and national regulations, advance emergency response, and phase out heavy fuel oil (HFO) in order to minimize impacts on marine mammals and fish and to prevent disruption of seasonal hunting, and for safety and environmental protection.”

Transport Canada’s recent announcement to support an HFO ban in the Arctic demonstrates vision and leadership and is very encouraging. When the Government of Canada and the shipping industry commit to support vital Arctic infrastructure, including shipping, commit to being global leaders in the shipping community and show that vessels entering the Arctic must also comply to the highest environment standards, we all win. To help prepare for safe, responsible shipping in Arctic waters, the Canadian government (and other governments) may consider a refund scheme, tax credits, subsidies or other mechanisms to offset vessel retrofits to meet the highest standards to protect the Arctic marine environment, without forcing remote Arctic communities to bear the cost.

Leaving our marine environment unprotected is not an option, nor is offloading costs for environmental protection to the communities. Implementing an HFO ban is the right thing to do and we applaud Canada in joining other Arctic nations and announcing its support for this ban today. Banning HFO, and therefore reducing the black carbon and particulate matter emissions will have an immediate and lasting positive effect on the environment.

“These are difficult waters to navigate, on one hand we need protection for our Arctic waters and animals, and on the other hand we are told this protection will result in inflated prices of the already expensive goods we depend on. By working together, we will find a way forward to support the shipping industry, protect the environment and foster responsible community development.”
– Lisa Koperqualuk, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, Vice President International

NTI and ICC’s position is clear: As a country, we must take measures to ensure safe Arctic shipping in a manner that respects Inuit reliance on the land and ice. Inuit seek to work with industry and the government to effect change that will protect the Arctic marine environment and support its peoples.

For more information, please contact:

Qajaaq Ellsworth
Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the President
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4955

Carole Simon ICC Canada
Tel: (613) 563-2642

Date of publication: 18 Feb 2020

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