Conservation Successes in Canada

Bowhead Whale Sanctuary to be Protected in Nunavut!
An extensive area off the coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut, known as Niginganiq, has become Canada's newest proposed National Wildlife Area.

This area contains critical habitat for threatened bowhead whales. The new protected area includes two deep offshore troughs that are rich in copepods, a main food source for the 18 metre-long, 70-tonne bowhead whale. It also includes a shallow shelf at the entrance to the bay that provides protection from predatory orca whales. Other species that call this area home, and will benefit from its protection include, polar bears, ringed seals, Arctic char, halibut, narwhal, Canada geese, snow geese and king eider.
View map of the federally announced National Wildlife Area for Bowhead Whales. / ©: WWF-Canada
View map of the federally announced National Wildlife Area for Bowhead Whales.
© WWF-Canada

Map of Baffin Island

 / ©: Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF
Bowhead whale at Isabella Bay, also known as Niginganiq, Nunavut, Canada.
© Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Stock / WWF
Since the 1980s, WWF-Canada has been working with the community of Clyde River to establish protection for this key area and its bowhead whales. WWF-Canada has funded research to determine the habitat needs of the bowhead whale and negotiated with all levels of government and Inuit organizations to develop a management plan for this magnificent northern bay.

Niginganiq is located on the northeast coast of Baffin Island, near the community of Clyde River. Also referred to as Isabella Bay or Igaliqtuuq, this area is a pristine late summer and fall feeding and resting stopover for a large proportion of the threatened Davis Strait-Baffin Bay bowhead whale population. During this time, an estimated 150 to 200 bowhead whales inhabit Niginganiq. While there, they feed mostly on small crustaceans called copepods, filtering these small creatures from the water with their sieve-like baleen mouths. They spend their time socializing and avoiding their main predator, orca whales.

Thanks to our many funders, supporters and board members for their help, and especially to the community of Clyde River for their patience and commitment in protecting this unique northern area.

The return of the bowhead whale each year to this unique marine habitat signals hope for this threatened species. Permanent protection of this critical habitat will ensure the whales have a safe place to return each year.

Did you know...

Bowhead whales can live for over 200 years, making them the longest-lived wild mammal on the planet.