Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary | Access and Activities | Map of the Area | Summary Table | Contact Information

Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape picture
Photo : Alain Fontaine © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape.

Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located at the northern extremity of Hudson Bay within the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut. Situated 110 km southwest of Coral Harbour on Southampton Island, the sanctuary is within the drainage basin of the lower Boas River. It includes the delta and estuary of Boas River, the adjacent tidal flats in Bay of God Mercy, and surrounding low inland areas. Underlain by Palaeozoic limestone and covered with glacial drift and beach deposits, much of the area lies below 60 m elevation. Flowing southward through the area, the Boas River cuts across an extensive sedge meadow lowland and forms a braided delta 5 km wide and 13 km long. Extensive tidal flats (at least 13 km wide) occur along the coastline. Scattered throughout the sedge lowlands are numerous lakes bordered by sedge-willow meadows. Dominant vegetation on the sedge lowlands includes sedge, cotton-grass, bog-rush and a variety of mosses and willows. Higher elevations are characterized by lichens and sedge.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

In 1957, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service proposed the establishment of a sanctuary at the Boas River (and at East Bay) to protect the main nesting areas of Lesser Snow Geese from disturbance from potential prospecting and tourist activities on Southampton Island. On May 21, 1959, the Boas River area was established as the Harry Gibbons MBS. The sanctuary was named in honour of a prominent Inuit guide and interpreter who assisted many scientists who worked in the area. By 1957, the Lesser Snow Goose colony at the Boas River was the most intensively studied goose colony in the Canadian Arctic.

The most recent photo surveys (2008) estimated that the area in and adjacent to the sanctuary supported a nesting population of 644 000 nesting Lesser Snow Geese. The greatest concentration occurs around the delta of the Boas River. The grassy islands of the braided delta provide an abundance of nesting sites. The sedge lowlands that extend beyond the sanctuary boundaries provide good feeding and moulting habitat. Atlantic Brant, Cackling Goose, Ross's Goose, Common Eider, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Tundra Swan also nest in the sanctuary.

Other avian species that breed in the area are Pacific and Red-throated Loons, Sabine's and Herring Gulls, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Phalarope and Parasitic Jaeger.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Access to Harry Gibbons MBS may be authorized as per the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations. However, under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Nunavut Settlement Area, only Nunavut beneficiaries have right of access for the purpose of subsistence harvest and do not require a permit to carry out activities related to subsistence harvesting.

For all other users, the standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Harry Gibbons MBS: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Anyone wishing to access Harry Gibbons MBS is advised to apply for a permit.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Nunavut, Southhampton Island and Hudson Bay. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of Hudson Bay, roughly following the shoreline, and extends inland. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Harry Gibbons MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary Table for Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary
CategoryInformation
Protected Area designationMigratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territoryNunavut
Latitude/longitude63°45' N, 85°40' W
Size in hectares (ha)143 811 ha
Date created (Gazetted)1959
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management CategoryIb - Wilderness Area
Additional designations
Main habitat typeGraminoid-peat-moss lowlands (39%), patterned ground and bare deposits uplands (26%), water bodies and exposed sediment (25%) and lichen-heath and boulder ridge highlands (10%)
Key bird speciesLesser Snow Goose, Atlantic Brant, Cackling Goose, Ross's Goose, Common Eider, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Tundra Swan
Other species

Birds: Red-throated and Pacific Loon, Sabine's Gull, Herring Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Phalarope and Parasitic Jaeger

Mammals: Arctic Fox, Bearded Seal, Ringed Seal and Polar Bear

Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)Polar Bear
Management agencyCanadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region, in collaboration with the Irniurviit Co-Management Committee of Coral Harbour
LandownersCrown land and Inuit-owned land

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
Eastern Arctic Unit
P.O. Box 1714
Iqaluit NU X0A 0H0
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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