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Ecological Framework of Canada
Arctic Basin Marine Ecozone

Human Activities

  1. Exploration/science

Most of the Canadian Arctic remains unexplored. Since the ecozone touches almost no land, human presence is limited to small-scale hunting parties along the edges of the pack ice and to adventurers willing to risk the fierce cold and near-featureless ice to fulfill their dreams of conquering the North Pole. In recent years, aircraft and ice-breaking ships have carried scientists and even tourists into the area. Scientific expeditions have concentrated largely on finding oil and gas reserves along the edges of the ice pack, but the permanent ice offshore poses formidable challenges to petroleum exploration and drilling.

Scientists have tracked the spread of toxic chemicals through the food chain in the Arctic. These substances, such as PCBs, DDTs, and mercury and other heavy metals, are released in distant industrial centres and transported to the Arctic by global weather systems and ocean currents. They tend to build up in the bodies of the marine mammals used by Canada's aboriginal peoples as major sources of food. PCBs, for example, are a known contaminant in the breast milk of Inuit women. Commercial over-harvesting of mammals and birds has endangered wildlife populations, most notably the Bowhead Whale. Commercial exploitation of traditional country foods has also affected Inuit subsistence hunting patterns.