April 16th, 2024

Marine area bigger than Lake Superior could soon be protected off Ontario’s shores

By The Canadian Press on February 21, 2024.

A marine area larger than Austria and home to beluga whales and threatened polar bears off Ontario's northern shores is a step closer to protected status. Muskeg, a type of low-lying wetland, is seen in an area near Kashechewan, Ont., in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mushkegowuk Council, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

A vast marine area home to beluga whales and threatened polar bears off Ontario’s northern shores is a step closer to protected status.

Officials with the federal government and nine First Nations say they have cleared a hurdle on the path to protecting a large stretch of southern Hudson Bay and western James Bay as a national marine conservation area.

After studying the feasibility of the project ““ covering an area bigger than Lake Superior ““ representatives for both Ottawa and the First Nations say they support the idea and are moving ahead to negotiations.

Grand Chief Leo Friday of the Mushkegowuk Council called it a welcome first step toward fulfilling a treaty promise with First Nations to recognize them as the stewards of their traditional lands and waters.

The federal government wants to add 10 marine conservation areas by 2026, doubling its current total, as part of a key biodiversity target to protect 30 per cent of lands and waters in Canada by 2030.

With this project the furthest along of seven candidate sites across the country, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he remains confident in the government’s ability to hit that target.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.

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