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An important focus of the NMC is reviewing existing or proposed regulatory, policy, research, development and management planning initiatives that currently or may in future affect marine areas ‐ and advocating for improvements, as required. A select listing of legislation and policies which govern or apply to Nunavut’s marine areas is provided for the information of Nunavummiut, residents of Canada, and other interested parties.

International Law

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes a legal regime for the zones dictating the limitations of states’ rights to exploit common marine resources as illustrated in Figure 1. Coastal states’ jurisdiction decreases as the distance from the coast increases.

UNCLOS establishes the following boundaries relating to coastal state jurisdiction:

  • Territorial sea: The territorial sea extends up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline (usually the low water line). This is the area in which the coastal state holds sovereignty, subject to limitations under the Convention. Most notably, all vessels have a right to innocent passage through the territorial sea.
  • Contiguous zone: This area extends up to 12 nautical miles beyond the baseline for the territorial sea. States have limited jurisdiction to “prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea.”
  • Exclusive economic zone (EEZ): This area extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. The coastal state is granted jurisdiction to harvest marine resources as well as to set the total allowable catch. The coastal state has limited jurisdiction to conserve the marine environment and to conduct conservation related research.
Polar Code

The Polar Code is a binding international framework to protect the two (2) polar regions – Arctic and Antarctic – from maritime risks. The Polar Code came into force on January 1, 2017. The Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles (see Figure 2). Under the Code, Canada requires ships in the Arctic to develop and carry a Polar Water Operational Manual that provides operators with sufficient information regarding the ship’s operational capabilities and limitations to support their decision-making process. The chapters in the Code each set out goals and functional requirements regarding ship structure, equipment and pollution prevention, among other items.

Domestic Legislation

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (1985)

One of the most important pieces of environmental legislation for the Arctic, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act prohibits any person or ship from depositing or permitting the deposit of waste of any type in Arctic waters or in any place on the mainland or islands of the Canadian Arctic under any conditions where the waste or any other waste that results from the deposit of the waste may enter Arctic waters. This Act is administered by Transport Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Natural Resources Canada.

Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations (2017)

These regulations, enabled by the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act and the Canada Shipping Act, brings the Polar Code into Canada’s regulatory framework, and includes Canadian modifications. The Regulations include safety measures and pollution prevention measures for Canadian vessels navigating in polar waters and foreign vessels navigating in a Canadian Shipping Safety Control Zone.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (2002)

A National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) is a marine protected area established in accordance with the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act that is managed and used in an ecologically sustainable manner for the purpose of protecting and conserving representative marine areas for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and the world. NMCAs include the seabed, subsoil, the water above it and any species that occur there, and may also include wetlands, estuaries, islands and other coastal lands. Activities such as a harvesting by Inuit, commercial fishing, marine transportation and a range of recreational and tourism activities can occur in an NMCA, but with an emphasis on conservation-oriented management practices. Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area, located in Lancaster Sound and Baffin Bay in the northeastern part of the Qikiqtani Region of Nunavut, will be designated under the National Marine Conservation Areas Act. This Act is administered by Parks Canada.

  • Inukjuaq
  • Cape Dorset
  • Saniquiluak
  • Cape Hope
Canada Shipping Act (2001)

The Canada Shipping Act is the primary piece of legislation governing the operation of Canadian vessels everywhere as well as foreign vessels operating in Canadian waters. It sets out requirements for registration, safety, and pollution prevention, amongst other items. This Act is administered by Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Ballast Water Regulations (2011) are regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. Ballast water that is taken on board a vessel outside Canadian waters must be managed in order to (a) minimize both the uptake of harmful aquatic organisms or pathogens within the ballast water and their release with the ballast water into Canadian waters; or (b) remove or render harmless harmful aquatic organisms or pathogens within the ballast water.

Pursuant to section 136 of the Canada Shipping Act, the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations (2010) establish the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG Zone) extending throughout Canada’s claimed northern waters. The regulations require certain vessels to report information before entering NORDREG and while navigating within it.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999)

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act addresses pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development. This Act is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canadian Navigable Waters Act (1985)

The Canadian Navigable Waters Act addresses the protection of navigation in Canadian navigable waters. It is prohibited to construct, place, alter, rebuild, remove or decommission a work in, on, over, under, through or across any navigable water that is listed in the schedule under this Act, except in accordance with this Act or any other federal Act. The Arctic Ocean, Baker Lake, and Coppermine, Dubawnt, Kazan, Soper, and Thelon Rivers are included as a navigable water under the Schedule for Act, which is administered by Transport Canada.