Two narwhal (Monodon monoceros) surfacing to breathe in Admiralty Inlet, Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Canada. Photo: WWF-Canada
WWF-Canada, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, is taking legal action to quash Arctic oil and gas exploration permits that continue to obstruct conservation efforts in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut.
The environmental group believes they “continue to obstruct conservation efforts” in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, which is said to be one of the world’s richest areas for marine mammal and harbours one of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic.
While the federal registrar has refused to delist the permits, the lawsuit argues that Shell Canada’s permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in Lancaster Sound – issued more than 40 years ago – are expired and therefore invalid.
It is also calling on the court to order an update of registry records under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to indicate the expiry of those permits.
Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada’s Vice President of Arctic conservation, said: “In the past, the federal government bureaucracy has relied on these expired permits to propose narrower boundaries for the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, over objections from Inuit communities. So long as these permits are allowed to stand, they will continue to obstruct efforts to ensure Lancaster Sound’s ecosystems and wildlife get the protection they need.”
Lancaster Sound is one of the richest marine mammal areas on earth and is home to narwhals, belugas, bowhead whales, ringed seals, harp seals and walruses. The area also harbours one of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and provides important breeding and feeding habitat for seabirds, including thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, ivory gulls and northern fulmars.
A Shell spokesperson added: “We are aware of a court application filed by World Wildlife Fund Canada and are currently assessing next steps.”