The Ocean

With 343 km of coastline, the Yukon North Slope is very much shaped by the ocean. While the land and its animals are the focus of much of our Council's work, estuaries, tidal flats, inland breezes, and sea ice all play a significant role in shaping the geography and ecology of the region, as well as influencing how humans interact with the environment. Moreover, many species, like polar bears, move between the land and sea throughout their lives.

Inuvialuit and the Ocean

The Beaufort Sea and its coastline continue to be important places in Inuvialuit daily life. The ocean provides a means of transportation, by boat in the summer and by snowmobile in the winter, to family camps and harvesting areas. In fact, travel along the coast can be dangerous in any season, but Inuvialuit have passed down knowledge across many generations about how to skillfully read the land and water for safe navigation. The ocean is also the very platform upon which numerous traditional cultural practices occur. From fishing to seal hunts, it is an integral part of the Inuvialuit way of life.

Language of Ice

Inuvialuit have many specific terms that describe the frozen ocean, which reflects the importance of the seascape in Inuvialuit culture. 


This means sea ice, while hikualuk is old ice and hikuliaq is annual or new ice.


These are icebergs, floating free in the ocean.


This term describes pressure ridges where ice piles up.


This is the term used to describe land-fast ice.

The recent Yukon North Slope Traditional Use Study highlights many of the ways Inuvialuit continue to interact with and value the ocean as a part of their homeland - this report is a great place to start understanding this relationship, as is the Inuvialuit and Nanuk study. For additional information, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, also a product of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, is great resource for more details about the ocean in the the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

Changing Coastlines

Like others in the North, Inuvialuit have noticed changes in coastal and marine areas as climate shifts. These changes introduce risk and uncertainty to many traditional practices and threaten sensitive coastal places. For example, changes to ice patterns can affect nearshore winds, making boat travel unsafe. 

Regardless, Inuvialuit continue to be resilient and adaptive to a new reality. We and our partners are working to document new phenomena and find ways to protect and support the Inuvialuit way of life, in the face of a new northern climate.

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