A collaboration between the fishing industry, Inuit organizations, and conservationists to protect key areas of the Arctic marine ecosystem has led to a special creative endeavour with Nanook School students in Apex.
“Going back to how it started … last year, the federal government had made the commitment to go to five per cent marine protected areas, to reach five per cent by 2017, and 10 per cent by 2020,” said Nunavut Fisheries Association executive director Brian Burke.
“That really put a lot of pressure on industry, government, the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and the environmental groups, and really everybody, to look at what could be done.”
Ancient deep-sea corals and high concentrations of fragile sponges and sea pens, which can grow up to two meters tall, populate Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and provide vital habitat for fish and marine mammals.
Ultimately, fishing closures were necessary to protect sensitive areas, but so was ensuring the fishing industry was not compromised. The collaborative work was successful, despite the fact that it wasn’t easy to come to agreement, said Burke. Three areas were chosen, meeting the federal government’s requirements.
Then, to spread the word about the food chain, the collaborators turned to the children of Nunavut, who would benefit from sustainability as the next generation, but who are also, now and in the future, the guardians of the sea.
The result is a bopping song and music video written and recorded by Joshua Qaumariaq of The Trade-Offs and Vinnie Karetak of Qanukiaq Studios, with input from Breanne Card’s class of Grade 3, 4 and 5 students at Nanook School in Apex.
Atiigo Media was hired to oversee the creative project, called the Guardians of Tariuq, and approached the school.
Card specializes in outdoor education.
“The students are very comfortable being outside and on the land and on the ice,” said Card. “So this worked really well with our curriculum. We’re actually currently doing a science unit on marine life. Perfect fit.”
Qaumariaq and Karetak, tasked with writing a song, visited with the students, and let them explain what was so important about sponges and corals.
“We went in not really understanding how the ecology works in the ocean and we got them to teach us. And it was great the whole way,” said Karetak.
“Josh came up with a song piecing together the information.”
“A lot of them (the students) hunt,” said Card. “A lot of them really love and enjoy country foods. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to talk about those experiences with their families. And the experiences we have here at the school.”
Nanook School is deeply connected to traditional practices and a land-based curriculum via other school staff, such as Maggie Kuniliusie, Kooto Alainga and Kalapik Pishuktie.
Zoya Martin, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, provided the students with information about corals and sponges, and the food chain.
“Then we came in afterwards as artists saying, ‘Can you teach us what these things are?’ The second you give them the opportunity to become leaders in providing information, they become experts in it,” said Karetak.
“The more we get them to teach us how to do stuff, it validates their education. For them it was like being the teacher, and it was so great to see. Through and through, I had fun talking with them.”
Card agrees with Karetak.
“The students just thrived. They loved it. They got very involved. They love music. They do a lot of singing and dancing in my class, so that was right up their alley.”
“They did a great job,” said Burke. “It’s getting out to kids, to everybody, to educate in terms of the ecosystem. We need these grounds for spawning and for protecting the various species. We have a very healthy fishery in the North as compared to some other areas so we want to do whatever we can to make sure that lasts for generations.”
Meanwhile, there’s still work to be done to reach the quota of 10 per cent of marine areas protected by 2020 – there’s 2.5 per cent remaining to decide on.
“We have to make sure we’re not disproportionately impacted, and make sure it’s not all just focused in the North,” said Burke.
Guardians of Tariuq is being distributed to Nunavut schools and is available on YouTube.