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Conservation economies present 'unprecedented opportunity' for Nunavut communities: report

Taloyoak, Nunavut, in 2014. The new report is produced as part of a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Smart Prosperity Institute, and the Taloyoak Umaruliririgut Association. (Tristan in Ottawa/Flickr - image credit)
Taloyoak, Nunavut, in 2014. The new report is produced as part of a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Smart Prosperity Institute, and the Taloyoak Umaruliririgut Association. (Tristan in Ottawa/Flickr - image credit)

A new report says Nunavut communities have "unprecedented opportunities" to grow their economies by embracing sustainability through the development of "blue conservation" economies.

The report — produced as part of a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Smart Prosperity Institute, and the Taloyoak Umaruliririgut Association, the Taloyoak hunters and trappers organization — is being released on Monday.

It states that as Canada moves to protect 30 per cent of its land and waters by 2030, the development of so-called "blue conservation economies" across Nunavut will lead to economic growth while protecting local natural resources.

According to the report, while a conservation economic generates wealth for a region using local natural resources in a way that doesn't deplete them, a blue conservation authority is connected to "land and marine ecosystems."

"In Nunavut, this includes land-based activities like hunting, trapping, fishing, arts and crafts, and nature-related tourism," it states.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including investing in country food economies, the Inuit Guardians and traditional knowledge networks, and tourism and Inuit artwork.

Renewable economy

"It's often referred to as a way of supporting conservation, not necessarily extraction of non-renewable resources," Paul Okalik, lead Arctic specialist with WWF Canada, said of blue conservation economies. "As you can see in the non-renewable resources sector, once the resource is gone, that economic activity is done."

"So this blue conservation economy is more towards an ongoing economy, or renewable economy, that does not end because it's not dependent on a non-renewable resource."

As an example, Okalik cited hunting.

"When you harvest an animal it's a renewable resource, so you not only gain the food, but the nutritional content of that food is invaluable," he said. "With this type of activity, you're taking advantage of what's readily available."

Paul Okalik, lead Arctic specialist with WWF Canada, says blue conservation economies allow for economic growth without relying on non-renewable resources. (Dustin Patar/CBC)

"When you harvest an animal, you eat most of it because it's fresh, and it's very good for you when it's fresh. The nutritional content of that is just beyond what you would get in any store anywhere."

Jimmy Ullikatalik of the Taloyoak Umaruliririgut Association said it's important the environment is kept clean and safe, as it's a vital food source for Inuit.

"We're not farmers, we're hunters and gatherers," he said. "So we want our environment and our wildlife clean, because that's our main diet and would like to get back out on the land."

However, he said, the report doesn't say that no non-renewable resource extraction should happen.

"It's up to each community, whatever they decide," he said. "We're not against mining."

The report states that local conservation economies are being increasingly viewed as a catalyst for economic development across Nunavut.

"Developing a successful business case to attract investors will hinge on a clear expression of the values of these blue conservation economies and how they can contribute to a vision of regional economic development that prioritizes the long-term well-being of Inuit households," the report states.