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Inuit court victory protects the Arctic

The Montreal Gazette

The federal government appears to have moved too quickly to wrap up consultations with the Inuit who depend on the rich bounty of Lancaster Sound, off the north coast of Baffin Island. The Inuit insist that any move to map the Arctic Ocean's seabed must proceed only with great caution.

Arctic climate change is adding value to the resources that might lie under the sound, but the Inuit, who depend in part on the region's marine resources, naturally want serious consultation, not bland reassurances, before even undersea mapping gets rolling.

Judge Sue Cooper of the Nunavut Court of Justice agreed, and in the spirit of prudence last week gave the Inuit an injunction which will in effect stop, at least for now, a planned scientific study involving the use of air guns to provide seismic information about the sea bottom in the region. The tests simply posed too many dangers to the animals, and residents, of Lancaster Sound, the judge ruled. The sound is considered one of the greatest ecosystems in the northern hemisphere. It is home to beluga whales, walrus, seals, and polar bears.

The federal government says that the joint Canadian-German seismic testing is a prelude to possibly establishing a northern national marine park. And in fairness, is should be noted that this government has done well in establishing national parks.

Tellingly, however, a German official said to Canadian Press that his association feels caught between Canada's environment ministry and the ministry for natural resources, both of which claim an interest in the seismic testing project.

The official, Heinrich Miller of the Alfred Wegener Institute, said the seismic tests will provide low-resolution data from layers deep below the sea bed, providing historical information about the structure of the Earth's crust. Energy explorers need a different kind of data, high-resolution information from just below the crust, Miller explained.

Even if we see this project in the best possible light, as non-commercial and purely benign, it's clear that the testing could very well have a negative impact on animal species that are vital to the Inuit population of the region.

Minimally invasive scientific research probably should, and no doubt eventually will, take place. But the residents of the region have rights, and deserve to be treated respectfully. "Consultation" doesn't imply a veto, but it should mean more than mere notification.


The news content in this section is responsibility of the information agencies and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Government of Mexico on this or other related topics.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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