Governments, aboriginal groups strike deal on south Hudson Bay polar bears
Annual harvest set at 45 bears, 15 fewer than in recent years
Updated Oct. 15
After years of postponed meetings and debates, governments, Aboriginal organizations and hunters in Nunavut, Nunavik and Cree regions within Ontario and Quebec have reached a new agreement on how to manage the controversial southern Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation.
Under the new agreement, Inuit hunters will be taking fewer polar bears than in past years; the annual harvest of that subpopulation has been set at 45, said an Oct. 10 Environment Canada news release.
Since 2011, in the absence of a quota system, a combined voluntary quota for the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear population of 60 has been used.
Twenty-six of those were allocated to Nunavik; 25 to Nunavut — for Sanikiluaq —and the remainder went to Cree communities in Ontario and Quebec.
But now with 15 fewer bears to take, Nunavik hunters will get 22 polar bears; 20 for Sanikiluaq (Nunavut) and three for Ontario and Quebec Cree.
The southern Hudson Bay’s polar bear subpopulation is among the most complex in Canada as it involves a territory, two provinces, two Inuit land claim areas, and Cree hunting rights under Treaty 9.
Although the federal environment department first requested that the different jurisdictions come up with a new quota for the sub-population in 2011, that meeting continued to be delayed while groups awaited the results of aerial surveys carried out in 2011 and 2012.
The surveys pegged the southern Hudson Bay polar bear population at 951 animals, suggesting the population hadn’t changed since the mid-1980s and was generally in good health.
But previous surveys had shown the population in decline and had caused concern for both scientists and regulators alike.
“All animals including polar bears and their environment are important, respected and vital to Inuit,” said Nunavut Tungavik Inc. vice-president James Eetoolook, reacting to the new agreement in an Oct. 10 release. “While we still need to work towards better recognition and use of Inuit knowledge, this voluntary agreement reflects our commitment to conservation and co-management.”
Nunavik’s Inuit birthright echoed those comments.
“The world needs to listen to people who live amongst these polar bears because we have much to offer in terms of oral history,” said Adamie Delise Alaku, Makivik Corp.’s executive vice-president of renewable resources said in the same release.
“We look forward to working with different levels of government on continuing to improve the use of traditional knowledge in the conservation and management of polar bears across Canada,” he said. “When we incorporate traditional knowledge with science, management decisions can only be more effective.”
Environment Canada said the new agreement takes effect November 2014 and continues until November 2016, when user groups will meet again to review it.
The agreement is applicable to the take of polar bears in accordance with the respective hunting seasons in each jurisdiction, said the federal department.