Mushkegowuk Council is working on protecting the marine ecosystems in western James Bay and Hudson Bay.
Mushkegowuk chiefs have approved a motion to have nation-to-nation talks with the federal government about establishing a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA).
“Through this initiative, we will protect the entire coastal and marine ecosystems that underpin the Mushkegowuk way of life including harvesting, ceremonial rights, sacred sites, travel routes, monitoring the health of our territory and, particularly, our inherent and treaty rights,” Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon said in a statement.
Mushkegowuk Council is working on the project with Oceans North, Wildlands League and the Oceans Collaborative. In addition to Mushkegowuk’s seven First Nations, Weenusk First Nation and Fort Severn have also joined the project.
“The timing of the project is perfect,” Solomon said. “Canada is trying to meet its 25 per cent by 2025 to make conservation targets for the oceans surrounding the country. Our friends and colleagues at the eastern part of James Bay, the Eeyou Istchee, are doing the same NMCA process, and other Indigenous groups are also working on protected areas in the James Bay and Hudson Bay.”
A task force comprised of community members, elders and youth is being developed, while funding to start the planning process is expected to come from donations and grants, according to the statement.
According to the news release, the James Bay seascape is home to polar bears, beluga whales and over 170 species of geese, ducks and shorebirds. The bay is shallow and low in salinity and is an essential source of life for the Mushkegowuk, Eeyou Istchee and Nunavik Inuit, reads a statement.
“Having chosen the NMCA as the desired tool to ensure the protection of our traditional marine territory, we are prepared to meet the officials at Parks Canada as soon as practicable to discuss next steps including a memorandum of understanding and a feasibility study strategy that will determine what is workable in this great effort by our people,” Solomon said in a statement.