Nunavut’s “blue conservation economy” is an example for the world

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New reports from the Smart Prosperity Institute make the case for more Inuit-led, sustainable economic development

OTTAWA, Sept. 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nunavut is home to Canada’s fastest-growing economy, largely due to natural resource extraction, which accounts for close to forty percent of territorial gross domestic product. Two new reports — written by the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI) with support from World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada) — show that there is an alternative economic model taking shape in Nunavut that can balance growth with social and environmental needs.

The reports, focused on conservation economies in Nunavut, say that the region’s budding “blue conservation economy” — an economic model in which coastal regions generate wealth by using marine resources in a sustainable way — is creating stable income for those Inuit communities that are successfully leveraging it. “We want to see the lands and resources here protected from industrial development because the area is sacred to us, and has everything we need to prosper,” says Jimmy Ullikatalik, manager at Taloyoak Umarulirijigut Association. “These reports provide us with a tool to continue advocating for a land-based conservation economy that allows our community to thrive.”

More than $1.35 billion in federal funding has been committed to advancing Indigenous-led conservation initiatives across the country since 2018. This investment signals to Inuit communities in Nunavut (and other Indigenous Peoples across the country) that they face an unprecedented opportunity to use their traditional knowledge, values and skills to drive prosperity while balancing resource extraction with nature conservation. “As Canada aims to protect thirty percent of its land and waters by 2030, investing in Nunavut’s blue conservation economy is a way to boost regional economic growth, enhance resilience to climate change, and conserve biodiversity,” said Michael Twigg, Program Director of Land-use, Nature, and Agriculture at SPI.

“These reports highlight the potential benefits that can come from realizing the conservation priorities of Nunavut communities,” says Paul Okalik, lead Arctic specialist at WWF-Canada. “This approach creates job opportunities that are sustainable for the future, while allowing Inuit to continue their traditional ways of sharing food with their families and communities. We look forward to advancing partnerships with community leaders to renew and strengthen Nunavut’s conservation economy, delivering economic development that reflects Inuit values.”

The Institute looked at three coastal Inuit protected and conserved areas where investments in local blue conservation economies have catalyzed community development: Aviqtuuq Inuit Protected and Conserved Area, Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area, and Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area. The reports identify key areas of investment that other coastal Inuit communities can use to chart their own paths to a better future, such as strengthening local-food harvesting and production or promoting local artisans. They also reinforce the business case to link conservation and local economic development. Investing in Nunavut’s blue conservation economy can help provide jobs, housing, and food security, while also prioritizing Inuit values, language, and culture, in a model that serves as a roadmap to success for the world.

Read the reports, Conservation Economies in Nunavut: Aviqtuuq Case Study, and Inuit-led Economic Development: An Overview of Nunavut’s Blue Conservation Economy, and supporting documents.

The Smart Prosperity Institute is a national research network and policy think tank based at the University of Ottawa. We deliver world-class research and work with public and private partners to advance practical policies and market solutions for a stronger, cleaner economy.

WWF-Canada is committed to equitable and effective conservation actions that restore nature, reverse wildlife loss and fight climate change. We draw on scientific analysis and Indigenous guidance to ensure all our efforts connect to a single goal: a future where wildlife, nature and people thrive.

For more information and to arrange an interview please contact: Mac Radburn at [email protected].

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