Diminishing sea ice due to climate change is making the Arctic Ocean more accessible. As a result, marine shipping within Inuit Nunangat waters is expected to increase dramatically in coming years as natural resources and shorter transit routes between Asia, Europe and North America are exploited. While the shipping industry plays a pivotal role in supporting the economy across Inuit Nunangat, increased Arctic shipping brings various threats to natural and cultural heritage in the region.
These threats, which have wide-ranging consequences for the health, well-being and livelihoods of Inuit communities, need to be assessed and mitigated. This project has been co-designed in direct response to these challenges by several Inuit organizations, Inuit communities, and academics in Canada and the UK. A combination of methods, including risk mapping, modelling of existing data, community youth training and knowledge documentation workshops, and ships of opportunity, will be used to address five main research activities designed to identify and assess practical solutions for the anticipated increase in shipping across Inuit Nunangat. The project is intentionally designed to reflect Inuit social values, Inuit Qaujisarnirmut (knowledge), and the principle of Piliriqatigiingniq, which is broadly defined as the process of respectful coming together and use of every resource, network, technology, and process available, in order to arrive at the best possible collaborative solution to a challenge. We will employ the Aajiiqatigiingniq Research Methodology (ARM), which is rooted in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and Inuit-specific methods for knowledge-building and meaning-making to build agreement together through group processes that are inclusive and participatory. This process enables Inuit to define what is known and collectively understood about an issue and facilitates a format for Inuit to gather, review and analyse information (e.g. scientific data, Inuit knowledge) as it is gathered (regardless of method used) to iteratively determine the relevance and impacts of new information on what is already known/understood. The project, guided by a wisdom committee, will involve scientists, community organizations, Inuit and Northern community research associates and youth, local Inuit knowledge holders, and ship operators through a series of co-learning workshops, sampling and analysis activities, and information/results sharing gatherings. We focus on five key activities that reflect the agreed upon and co-developed research objectives and these include: Activity 1) analyses of past, present, and projected future shipping traffic for Inuit Nunangat, Activity 2) investigation of underwater noise impacts on marine mammals, hunting, and (country) food security, Activity 3) measurement of ship-source air and marine pollution, Activity 4) evaluation of the introduction of non-indigenous species due to ship traffic, and Activity 5) the development of risks maps that integrate outputs from Activities 1-4 and further identification of relevant risk mitigation techniques and self-determined ocean government strategies that could deal with identified challenges. While conducting the research, we will rely on two research platforms: community-based research and ships of opportunity. These complimentary approaches will allow us to focus both on typically used shipping corridors and also to gather baseline data and comparative data between a community that has historically experienced low levels of shipping activity (i.e., Arviat, Nunavut) and a community that has experienced relatively high levels of shipping activity (i.e., Pond Inlet, Nunavut).