Learn more about the uniqueness of the Belcher Islands Archipelago and ongoing work to implement the vision for a community-led protected area.
A Unique Place
The uniqueness of the islands and their geology is immediately obvious when looking at a map or image from space. There is no place like it on Earth! In the heart of Hudson Bay, the islands and ocean currents provide a vantage point for tracking the pulse of the greater Hudson Bay ecosystem as a whole.
The islands provide marine and terrestrial habitats for a wide variety of species, including summer migrants, year-round residents and acts as a key stop-over site connecting the region for species passing through. The unique Hudson Bay Eider is endemic, nesting on islands and wintering at the floe edges and polynyas. Qikiqtait will protect species like eiders on land and at sea throughout the annual cycle.
Sanikiluarmiut are islanders – Qikiqtaitmiut, and like most islanders, are uniquely adapted to their home. A lack of caribou meant using eider ducks for clothing and food year-round, which created a unique culture based on eider down, the warmest feather in the world.
Sea Ice Ecosystems
The unique geography of the islands provides numerous rich habitats for wildlife, particularly where tidal currents create winter floe edges in each direction and bring nutrients to over 20 polynas (ikirasaq) that provide oasis in the winter sea ice for wildlife like eiders.
A Unique Vision
Stewardship for Future Generations
For a long time, Sanikiluarmiut have shared a clear vision to protect the entire archipelago, including marine and terrestrial ecosystems, for future generations. Since 2018, a whole-of-community approach has been taken through the Sanikiluaq Qikiqtait Steering Committee to support meetings with government and regional organizations.
Guardians / Nautsituqtiit
Sanikiluaq‘s vision for taking care of Qikiqtait includes jobs and programs involving hunters, elders, seamstresses and other experts leading cultural and environmental monitoring programs and engaging youth. It also includes the year-round involvement of harvesters documenting wildlife and land-use activities through tools like SIKU, an app created in Sanikiluaq setting new standards for real-time Indigenous led-stewardship.
Sanikiluaq is a global leader in Indigenous-led programs that started with Voices from the Bay and led to the formation of a Community-Driven Research Network and the Hudson Bay Consortium. The unique islands and waters provide one of the best places in the world for Arctic terrestrial, marine and sea ice research. Qikiqtait is providing capacity for Sanikiluarmiut to play a leading role in Arctic research, by and for the community.
Creating a protected area for Qikiqtait is about investing in the unique resources the islands provide and creating jobs that support sustainable long-term harvesting and ecosystem services, which can include environmental monitoring, community-led research, guiding/ecotourism, fisheries, natural history filmmaking, cultural and education programs and much much more!