Nunavut’s COVID-19 restrictions have shut down the National Aerial Surveillance Program in the North. The program, which monitors ship traffic off Canada’s coastlines for ship-sourced pollution, has had to abandon its northern operations because of strict travel restrictions in Nunavut.

The program, which is jointly run by Transport Canada and Climate Change Canada, has been trying to get in the air since June but has been unable to convince Nunavut officials that it’s an essential service. Nunavut has banned travel to the territory for non-residents since the spring.

Last year, the bright red Dash 8 used by the program flew 49 missions and monitored more than 2,000 ships. It spotted one small oil spill of about 15.4 litres and participated in two search and rescue operations.

Should there be a major oil spill, the organization says it will ask Nunavut authorities to let it fly. Transport Canada said in a press statement it “will remain in a state of readiness and seek an exemption in the event of an urgent tasking relating to an oil pollution incident.”

Photo credit: John Davies