Nunavut MLAs pepper minister with polar bear quota questions

Baker Lake MLA worries community’s small quota will get used up by defence kills

By STEVE DUCHARME

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak says he's worried that the small polar bear quota for Western Hudson Bay could get eaten up by defence kills. (FILE PHOTO)


Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak says he’s worried that the small polar bear quota for Western Hudson Bay could get eaten up by defence kills. (FILE PHOTO)

Increased sightings of polar bears in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region have one Nunavut MLA worried that the small number of tags allocated to his inland community will be wholly dedicated to defence kills and not for traditional hunting.

In a statement at Nunavut’s legislature Oct. 31, Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak said polar bears are becoming a greater threat to communities across the territory.

“Nunavummiut have observed an increasing number of polar bears within community parameters… hunters who venture out of the community to harvest other types of wildlife have been experiencing an increasing number of polar bear attacks,” he said.

Earlier this year, Mikkungwak said a hunter in Baker Lake was forced to shoot a polar bear outside town to save his own life.

“As a result, Baker Lake’s single allocation of a total available harvest for that polar bear sub-population was used,” Mikkungwak said.

“I remain concerned that this type of situation has become the norm in my community. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that residents of Baker Lake will have the opportunity to take part in the tradition of harvesting a polar bear for their family and community.”

Mikkungwak called on the members of the assembly, in consultation with Inuit and wildlife organizations, to address “the serious challenges” that communities face to protect residents from dangerous wildlife.

Perhaps those challenges were most apparent this Halloween in Arviat, where a small militia of town volunteers patrolled the streets of Nunavut’s polar bear capital to provide the first outdoors trick-or-treat Halloween for Arviat youth in two years.

Just last year, the Government of Nunavut drew criticism from Arviat MLA Joe Savikataaq for allocating only four additional polar bear tags to the Western Hudson Bay sub-population, despite calls from Nunavut’s Wildlife Management Board to increase the quota by at least 14 tags.

Savikataaq, now environment minister, said later during question period that Mikkungwak would have to petition the Kivalliq Wildlife Board for additional tag allocations—out of the Foxe Basin polar bear sub-population— for his Baker Lake constituents.

“I too, raised the concern on the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population many times when I sat over on the other side,” Savikataaq added, referring to his time as a regular MLA.

Savikataaq also updated the assembly on the status of a new agreement for co-management of the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear population between Nunavut, Ontario and Quebec, where the three jurisdictions share the quota for the polar bear sub-population.

That management area lies east of Western Hudson Bay, and takes in Sanikiluaq, Nunavik and Ontario.

The previous Southern Hudson Bay agreement, drafted by Nunavut, Ontario and Quebec’s Inuit and Cree territories in 2014, is set to expire this year.

“[The meeting] will not be happening next month,” Savikataaq said, adding that data collected on the polar bear sub-population has yet to be analyzed.

Savikataaq was responding to a line of questioning from Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt, who asked the minister for an update on the negotiations.

“It would make more sense to have the meeting once they know exactly what the data says,” he said.

Savikataaq did not say when the postponed meeting would take place.

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