NTI and feds agree to talk, not fight, over narwhal ban

“Working together is always preferable to litigation”


Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says it has withdrawn a legal challenge against the federal government over its export ban on narwhal products.

NTI announced June 20 that, instead, it will work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to resolve a 2010 decision to ban the overseas trade of tusks and other narwhal products from 17 Nunavut communities.

The DFO and NTI have agreed on the need for “meaningful, timely consultations” on issues that may have an impact on Inuit rights spelled out in the Nunavut Land Claims, said Terry Audla, the chief executive officer of NTI.

“DFO has agreed to work with NTI to avoid unexpected decisions affecting Inuit,” Audla said in a June 20 news release.

Officials imposed the trade ban on narwhal products in late 2010, when they determined the species may be overhunted in some Arctic regions, including Admiralty Inlet, East Baffin Island and North Hudson Bay.

DFO maintained the ban was needed to comply with the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

That means that Inuit in the 17 communities affected by the ban, including Iqaluit, can sell their tusks within Canada, but not outside the country.

But NTI said that ban violated the Nunavut Land Claims Agreements, and the organization filed an application in January to challenge the decision in court.

NTI argued that DFO acted unfairly by not consulting Inuit groups before issuing the decision and “deprived Inuit of the opportunity to respond and make submissions on a matter that directly affected their interests,” the application states.

But last week, NTI and DFO signed an agreement recognizing “the importance of sustainable international trade of wildlife parts to the cultural, social and economic well-being of Inuit.”

The two organizations plan to take part in governance workshops on narwhal co-management this summer, to reconsider their roles and to review data on the narwhal population in Jones Sound.

“I am glad that the Government of Canada and NTI reached this agreement,” said Nunavut’s MP, Leona Aglukkaq, in a June 20 news release from Ottawa.

“Working together is always preferable to litigation, and I believe this agreement lays out a good path as we move forward together. As a northerner, I’m glad to see that these issues are being worked out respectfully between both sides.”

NTI estimates that Inuit harvest about 500 narwhals each year. Of that number, roughly 120 are sold overseas.

Narwhal tusks are worth between $1,000 and $2,000 a piece.

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