Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut September 12, 2012 - 5:02 am

NTI: Inuit need entire beluga, walrus, narwhal TAH for basic needs

“The Inuit needs for these species normally exceed the available supply”

Participants in the NWMB public hearing for beluga, walrus and narwhal listen to NTI’s submission to the board. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Participants in the NWMB public hearing for beluga, walrus and narwhal listen to NTI’s submission to the board. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board should establish basic needs levels for beluga, walrus and narwhal by determining that Inuit need all of the total allowable harvest for all of those species within the Nunavut settlement area.

That’s what Glenn Williams, a wildlife advisor with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., told the board at a public hearing held Sept. 11 at the Hotel Arctic in Iqaluit.

The goal of the NWMB hearing is to set basic needs levels for beluga, walrus and narwhal.

Under NTI’s submission, Inuit would exercise a right of first access for the harvest of beluga, walrus and narwhal, as set out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Williams said.

“The Inuit needs for these species normally exceed the available supply,” he said, so the total allowable harvest should serve as the basic needs level.

About 27 people from NTI, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, the Kivalliq Wildlife Board, the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board, and the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Environment are attending the two-day hearing, where they will also listen to submissions and ask questions on the topic Sept. 12. 

Williams used polar bears as a hypothetical example of why basic needs levels should be the same as the total allowable harvest: in Iqaluit, there might be a basic need for Inuit to harvest about 2,000 bears, but only 24 may be legally harvested.

So NTI suggested the NWMB use the basis set out in the land claims agreement for the “presumption as to needs” for species when setting basic needs level for beluga, narwhal and walrus.

The land claims agreement’s 1997 deadline for a decision on basic needs levels for those species disqualifies the use of the harvest study formula when setting basic needs levels now, Williams said.

That’s because that formula is based on past Inuit harvest levels only. 

Those marine mammal species are important to Inuit economics, society and culture, Williams added.

So far, they’ve been tightly regulated as to how much Inuit have been able to harvest.

“Inuit are in fact the primary harvesters of belugas, narwhals and walruses in the Nunavut settlement area,” Williams said.

The DFO and NTI have already agreed to this approach regarding narwhals, Williams said, suggesting “there’s no reason in policy or law why beluga and walrus should not receive the same treatment as narwhal.”

Until a total allowable harvest is set, this decision will not have harvesting consequences.

Right now, non-Inuit can hunt these species subject to the approval of hunter and trapper organizations.

An exception could be made for harvesting for scientific purposes, with the wildlife board’s approval, Williams added.

David Alagalak, of the Kivalliq Wildlife Board, agreed with NTI’s submission.

“I concur with the submission and there were good examples for Iqaluit and the polar bears,” he said, adding that it’s important to support local Inuit hunters and trappers.

Alagalak also said it’s important to follow the rules.

“Distribute the wildlife according to what is allowed by the authorities, to establish BNLs [basic needs levels] and allowable harvests.”

Ovide Alakannuark of the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board also agreed with NTI but said that in some areas, quotas, which are different from total allowable harvests, should be higher. Some species of wildlife are not decreasing in population, but increasing, he said.

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