Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 24, 2016 - 7:00 am

Nunavut board recommends green light for Crystal Serenity Northwest Passage tour

"Unlikely to result in significant adverse environmental and social impacts"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
This map from Crystal Cruises shows the proposed path of the cruise ship Crystal Serenity, which due to stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 in Pond Inlet, now with the blessing of the Nunavut Impact Review Board. (FILE IMAGE)
This map from Crystal Cruises shows the proposed path of the cruise ship Crystal Serenity, which due to stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 in Pond Inlet, now with the blessing of the Nunavut Impact Review Board. (FILE IMAGE)
In the Northwest Passage, the passengers aboard the Crystal Serenity will be eager to spot polar bears, like this swimming pair spotted in an August 2010 transit of the passage — but they'll have to follow strict rules and not harass the animals. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
In the Northwest Passage, the passengers aboard the Crystal Serenity will be eager to spot polar bears, like this swimming pair spotted in an August 2010 transit of the passage — but they'll have to follow strict rules and not harass the animals. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has recommended that Canada’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister, Carolyn Bennett, and other Canadian authorities, approve a plan by the Crystal Cruises firm to bring its Crystal Serenity vessel through the Northwest Passage.

The tourism project is “not likely to cause significant public concerns, and it is unlikely to result in significant adverse environmental and social impacts,” the NIRB said in a 29-page screening decision released Aug. 23.

The cruise ship company had earlier this year submitted an application to the NIRB for the Crystal Serenity voyage, due to stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 29 and Pond Inlet Sept. 5, and for a similar transit in 2017.

On Aug. 23 — less than a week before the Crystal Serenity is expected to enter Nunavut waters, the NIRB, charged with evaluating the company’s application, said it recommended “that the responsible Minister(s) accepts this [favourable] Screening Decision Report.”

That means a full blown environmental assessment is not needed.

From July 5 to July 26, the NIRB had asked the public to provide comments and concerns regarding the project proposal, which were incorporated into the screening decision and its 32 terms and conditions.

Some of these reflected comments from the Nunavut Department of Environment about protecting polar bears — which the 900-plus passengers on board the Crystal Serenity are sure to want to see.

The GN reminded the cruise company that polar bears are a designated species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act, so the cruise operator must adhere to several requirements:

• expedition boats should stay clear of any swimming polar bears and under no circumstance should approach them, and “should polar bears be encountered during boat operations, evasive boat maneuvers should be employed to allow the bears free movement;”

• crew should carry 12-gauge shotguns that can be used to fire non-lethal deterrents and are the standard bear deterrent firearm in Nunavut. “Lethal rounds should only be used in the defense of life or property with deterrents, such as bangers, screamers, air horns, and noise makers, included in stranding kits taken ashore during land-based activities;”

• as helicopters can cause stress to wildlife, there must be measures to mitigate impacts to wildlife during flights “including maintaining horizontal and vertical buffer distances and avoiding circling during observations;” and,

• there should be more education to passengers on the possible dangers of all Arctic wildlife and “not just polar bears that could pose a risk to passengers.”

The huge Crystal Serenity — the biggest cruise ship ever to transit the Northwest Passage to date —  set sail Aug. 16 from Seward, Alaska, on its 32-day journey to New York City.

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut’s gateway to the Northwest Passage, will welcome the ship’s record-breaking load of 1,600 or more passengers and crew Aug. 29 in one of only two shore visits slated for Nunavut. The second will take place Sept. 5 in Pond Inlet

The Crystal Serenity is likely to enjoy “extremely favourable” ice conditions in the Northwest Passage, the Canadian Coast Guard has said.

No matter what the ice conditions may be, not everyone is in agreement with the planned transit by the Crystal Serenity,

Law expert Professor Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia told the Guardian this week that “this is extinction tourism.”

He said “making this trip has only become possible because carbon emissions have so warmed the atmosphere that Arctic sea ice in summer is disappearing. The terrible irony is that this ship – which even has a helicopter for sightseeing and a huge staff-to-passenger ratio — has an enormous carbon footprint that is only going to make things even worse in the Arctic.”

  Screening Decision Report OT3E by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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