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Beluga whales to gain new protection zone Add to ...

Beluga whales and other arctic marine wildlife will receive added protection within a new conservation area located in the Mackenzie Delta and estuary in the Beaufort Sea, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.

The Tarium Niryutait Marine Protection Area, the first of its kind in the Canadian Arctic, will consist of three separate areas encompassing 1,800 square kilometres.

"The area we are setting aside is home to one of the world's largest populations of summering beluga whales," said Mr. Harper, in a statement released in advance of the announcement. "Today we are ensuring these Arctic treasures are preserved for generations to come."

During the summer months, belugas use this area to feed, socialize and raise their calves, according to background documents.

The statement inferred that not all hunting and fishing activities will be prohibited. "The Marine Protected Area will also protect harvesting traditions central to the Inuvialuit culture," it said.

The announcement came on the fourth day of the Prime Minister's northern tour, which has already taken him to Churchill, Manitoba, Resolute Bay in Nunavut, and Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in Northwest Territories. The trip concludes Friday in Whitehorse, Yukon.

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