Supermajor Shell has donated nearly 9000sq km of its Arctic exploration permits to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to support a national marine conservation area off the coast of Nunavut.
Image from Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Shell’s Canadian arm announced the voluntary contribution of more than 8625sq km, located in the Baffin Bay, near Lancaster Sound to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, who then released the permits to the government of Canada to facilitate a marine conservation initiative.
A federal proposal for a national marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound currently includes 44,500sq km of marine territory that encompasses most of Lancaster Sound. The contribution of Shell's permits, located outside and east of these boundaries, could clear the way for a larger national marine conservation area. In addition, it will help to protect their traditional territory, and support the federal government's target of protecting at least 10% of Canada's marine and coastal areas by 2020.
Lancaster Sound is the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, the legendary corridor through Canada's Arctic Archipelago. It is an area of critical ecological importance to marine mammals, including seals, narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales, as well as walrus and polar bears. It is bordered by some of the most important seabird breeding colonies in the Arctic, with populations totaling in the hundreds of thousands, Shell Canada said.
As a supporter of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's conservation program, Shell has contributed more than US$6.5 million in financial resources, land and mineral rights to the organization over the past 30 years.
“Contributing our offshore rights to the Nature Conservancy of Canada builds on 30 years of joint conservation efforts between our organizations. Through collaboration across sectors, we can achieve greater conservation outcomes together," Michael Crothers, Shell Canada president and country chair said.
"We are now one big step closer in a 40-year process to protect an area that's been important to Inuit for millennia. Lancaster Sound, Tallurutiup Tariunga in Inuktitut, is one of the Arctic Ocean's richest marine habitats – an area of stunning natural beauty and deep cultural significance. The inclusion of these lease areas helps complete what will be one of Canada's boldest protected areas and will allow for boundaries that are consistent with community aspirations for Lancaster Sound," Christopher Debicki, Nunavut Projects director, Oceans North Canada said.
Last month, several supermajors including Shell, Italian giant Eni, and US supermajor ConocoPhillips surrendered more than 2 million acres in the Chukchi Sea.