Oceana Canada launches northern expedition with Nunatsiavut Government to explore areas critical to Inuit communities

Press Release Date: August 19, 2019

(Nain, Labrador)…On Sunday, August 18, Oceana Canada and the Nunatsiavut Government set sail on an expedition to explore culturally and ecologically significant marine habitats in Northern Labrador. The Imappivut (“Our Oceans” in Inuttitut) Expedition 2019 findings will help promote and support Inuit interests in the coastal and marine areas of Nunatsiavut.

During the 10-day expedition on the Leeway Odyssey research vessel, the team will collect data about important fish species such as Arctic char and habitats in coastal bays and fjords – including kelp forests, rocky reefs that are home to corals and sponges, and open water areas surrounded by seasonal sea ice. The expedition team will document life on the seafloor with a remotely operated vehicle, cameras baited with squid and Environmental DNA (eDNA) water sample testing, which will identify what species live in the environment. They will also gather information about marine life visible from the surface of the sea, such as whales, seals and seabirds.

“With oceans increasingly under threat from climate change and human activities, it is vital that we better understand and conserve them for the benefit of the oceans and the people who depend on them,” says Dr. Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada. “By combining community knowledge and scientific data, we can advance marine conservation.”

The expedition team will share knowledge, resources and expertise as they survey and collect information in Saglek Fjord to the south of Torngat Mountains National Park; Hebron and Okak, former Inuit communities of deep historical, archaeological and cultural significance; and the bays and islands around Nain, home to the largest community in Nunatsiavut. These areas are also important to the Nunatsiavut Inuit community for food, social and ceremonial reasons.

In addition to surveying marine life in each location, the team will potentially identify archaeological materials during a rare look underwater in Hebron Harbour. Former Hebron residents will be onsite to share stories about the significance of the former Inuit community and Moravian mission site. In the final days of the expedition, community members from Nain will visit the Leeway Odyssey to watch live underwater exploration of an area they use year-round for hunting and fishing.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and the Arctic warming three times as fast, so protecting areas of ecological and cultural significance is essential for the long-term health of the ocean and for the many people who rely on it.

The changes in sea ice due to the warming climate in the Arctic impacts both humans and wildlife. Shorter ice seasons mean that Inuit communities have less time to travel during the winter season to hunt and fish, impacting important food sources. Changing sea ice also means wildlife species that rely on sea ice as critical birthing and feeding habitats are at risk.
Through this partnership and technology, Canadians from across the country have an opportunity to explore these important areas. “With serious environmental threats facing oceans, it is important to communicate science in ways that compel people to support marine conservation. People can follow the expedition’s daily journey, through photo and video updates, experiencing important ocean environments and meeting scientists and community members that are connected to these special places,” says Dr. Rangeley.

Join the expedition partners throughout the Imappivut Expedition at ProtectOceans.ca.


For more information, please contact:

Kathleen Munro at kathleen.munro@pilotpmr.com or 902.789.3165
About Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.