Nunavut narwhal plan proposes new management system

More controls, big revisions to quota numbers


This map shows the six

This map shows the six “management units” for narwhal in Nunavut waters — the DFO wants to see the hunt reduced in for Northern Hudson Bay and East Baffin Island, although it increases the total allowable catch overall. (FILE IMAGE)

Nunavut's first narwhal management plan wants to see every tusk of a harvested narwhal registered and tagged. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut’s first narwhal management plan wants to see every tusk of a harvested narwhal registered and tagged. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut’s first narwhal management plan will bring more change to the age-old Inuit hunt of the tusked Arctic whales.

That hunt has been governed by quotas since 1996, but now, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants to see Nunavut hunters adopt a new more regulated system for narwhal harvesting.

This would change how quotas are distributed and impose new measures designed to keep track of every animal and every tusk harvested.

That new approach is spelled out in a densely-worded, 43-page “Integrated Fisheries Management Plan” for narwhal in Nunavut that would come into effect in January 2013.

The plan divides Nunavut into six new management units based on where biologists believe narwhals spend the summer.

It increases the total narwhal harvest for Nunavut to 1,180, up from a figure of 704 in previous years.

But the new management scheme proposes smaller harvest numbers for northern Hudson Bay. If hunters in those communities want to hunt more, they’ll be obliged to travel.

In northern Hudson Bay, the quota falls to 57 from 117, to be shared among hunters in Repulse Bay, Coral Harbour, Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet, Cape Dorset, Whale Cove, Kimmirut, Arviat, Baker Lake and Hall Beach.

In 2010, Repulse Bay hunters landed 82 narwhal (10 more than the quota of 72). Now they’ll be asked to take much less than that and share the new northern Hudson Bay quota of 57.

And that quota could sink even lower if Nunavik Inuit make a successful case for hunting narwhal there.

The new plan also calls for a reduction in the quota for communities in the East Baffin Island management unit: Clyde River, Qikitarjuaq, Pangnirtung and Iqaluit, where the total allowable catch for these communities will fall from 190 to 122.

But it increases the number of narwhal that hunters may take in Pond Inlet, the Eclipse Sound management unit, from 130 to 236, and in Arctic Bay, the Admiralty Inlet management unit, from 128 to 233.

The largest jump in the quota can be found within the Somerset Island unit, which includes Resolute Bay, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Cambridge Bay, Igloolik, Hall Beach and Kugluktuk.

In that unit, the previous quota for those communities leaps to 532 from 112.

For the Parry Channel, Jones Sound and Smith Sound management unit, hunted by Grise Fiord, the quota remains at 20.

The DFO has based its total allowable catch on the number of narwhal in the management units.

In northern Hudson Bay, the DFO estimates 5,023 narwhals. But for Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound and East Baffin Island, they estimate a population of about 90,000.

Along with the new quotas, the DFO also wants more stringent reporting of hunts — now self-reported to Hunter and Trapper Organizations — as well as a “tusk certification program” to improve “tusk traceability.”

This will see marine mammal tags on tusks, inspections and certification by a wildlife officer or fishery officer and “possession of untagged tusks” becoming “illegal.”

It will also require permits to take tusks out of Nunavut.

Between 1990 and 2007 the DFO says an average of 102 tusks were exported each year from Nunavut, the management plan says, but it does not say where those tusks came from.

“Improved controls over tusks are critical to protect the legal market and trade, from the hunter to the end buyer,” the management plan says.

The management plan now goes to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, which is expected to call a hearing, likely to take place in June.

Then the board will make a recommendation to the federal fisheries minister.

Eric Kan, the DFO’s regional director for the Arctic, who has led DFO consultations held throughout Nunavut this month, said quota numbers in the plan could change when the results of the 2011 survey of the northern Hudson Bay stock are in — but that might not be until later in 2012.

The quota was upped in late 2011 for the Admiralty Inlet from 28 to 233 after 2010 survey results showed there were 18,049 narwhal instead of 3,602.

But even without the new survey data for northern Hudson Bay, the pressure is on the DFO to put a narwhal management plan in place, because Canada needs to show the world it’s managing narwhal effectively.

In March 2013, Canada heads to Thailand to take part in a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Narwhal have been listed since 1979 on Appendix II of the CITES agreement.

And for narwhal exports to continue, Canada must show that allowing the export of an Appendix II species is not detrimental or harmful to the survival of the species.

Canada decided to issue a non-detrimental finding in December 2010 on the export of narwhal parts, which effectively amounted to an export ban throughout Nunavut.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the watchdog for Nunavut Inuit harvesting rights, said it won’t comment on the current narwhal plan until after the last DFO narwhal consultation takes place March 31 in Iqaluit.

But NTI hasn’t been happy with the increasing amount controls and restrictions on the narwhal hunt.

After a court challenge by NTI, which was later dropped, and new 2010 narwhal survey results from Admiralty Inlet, the DFO decided to partially lift the trade restrictions last December.

It released revised positive non-detrimental findings reports on four of the six summering stocks of narwhal in Nunavut — but not for northern Hudson Bay and Jones Sound.

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