Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 02, 2018 - 8:00 am

Greenland, Nunavut agree on quota hike for Baffin Bay polar bears

Nunavut hunters get increased quota of 80 in Baffin Bay zone

JANE GEORGE
A polar bear strolls across the ice in Baffin Bay where the population of polar bears is shared between Nunavut and Greenland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
A polar bear strolls across the ice in Baffin Bay where the population of polar bears is shared between Nunavut and Greenland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
On this map from the Joint Commission's scientific working group you can see the various polar bear populations and their overlap between Nunavut and Greenland. (FILE PHOTO)
On this map from the Joint Commission's scientific working group you can see the various polar bear populations and their overlap between Nunavut and Greenland. (FILE PHOTO)

In 2018, hunters in Greenland and Nunavut will see an increase in the number of polar bears they can legally harvest on each side of Baffin Bay.

Greenland’s fishing and hunting department has announced its approval of a new polar bear quota system, with some increases, which came into effect Jan. 1, said a Government of Greenland release and backgrounder released in the Danish and Greenlandic languages just before Christmas.

This means, among other things, that Greenland hunters will be able to hunt 16 more polar bears in Baffin Bay this year, for a total of 80 from a sub-population from which Nunavut hunters also harvest polar bears.

The Nunavut government and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board have not yet announced anything about a similar increase, effective Jan. 1, for Nunavut hunters.

But the quota increase for Nunavut should be similar, according to the Greenland government release.

This means that in 2018, Nunavut hunters will be able to take 80 polar bears from the Baffin Bay zone, up from the 2017 quota of 65.

That’s the highest total allowable harvest in Nunavut for Baffin Bay polar bears since about four or five years ago.

In 2004, Nunavut increased the quota for the Baffin Bay sub-population from 64 to 105.

But between 2010 and 2014, this take was reduced by 10 per year over four years, bringing the quota down to 65 polar bears.

The increase in the polar bear quota for Baffin Bay was decided this past October, when the Nunavut-Greenland joint commission on polar bears reached a consensus.

The joint commission decided on a total allowable harvest equal to 5.7 per cent of the estimated 2,826 polar bears in Baffin Bay. This resulted in a quota of 160 polar bears, to be split between Nunavut and west Greenland, the Greenland government said.

But the joint commission did not reach an agreement on the quota allocation for the shared Kane Basin polar bear population, whose population is estimated at about 355 polar bears, despite various proposals that Greenland and Nunavut put forward, the Greenland government said.

In July 2016, Greenland and Nunavut received the first scientific working group report under the Joint Commission that included stock estimates for polar bears in Baffin Bay and Kane Bay.

About a year later, they received the final report from the commission’s scientific working group, which took into account current harvest levels and looked at the impact of climate change.

The recommendations of this group’s report formed the basis for a meeting of the joint commission on the shared quotas for polar bears in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin, the Greenland government said.

The distribution of quotas for polar bears was based on the latest scientific advice, a consultation process, political decisions, and “on many years of joint work between Greenlandic and Canadian researchers as well as managers,” the Greenland government said.

In Greenland, none of the quota can be used for sport hunting.

Including other hunting areas in Greenland, such as east Greenland, Greenland hunters will be able to hunt 156 polar bears in 2018, including those from the Kane Basin. Davis Strait and east Greenland.

That’s about the same number as in 2006 when Greenland first introduced quotas for polar bears.

About 70 per cent of the roughly 25,000 polar bears in the world live in Nunavut and Greenland. The two jurisdictions agreed in 2005 to manage their shared stocks.

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