Shewchuck rejects proposed Baffin Bay polar bear quota

Nunavut environment minister hopes for final decision by March


Nunavut’s environment minister, Dan Shewchuk, has rejected the Nunavut Wildlife Management’s Board’s proposed hunting quota for polar bears in the Baffin Bay sub-population.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board made the recommendation last October, but under the Nunavut land claims agreement, the minister has the final say.

“The department reviewed it [the proposed quota]” said Shewchuk. “There was some concerns. We sent it back to them; they have it now. They are reviewing it.”

Shewchuk did not elaborate on his reasons, nor did he reveal the board’s recommendation.

The Nunavut land claims agreement says such proposals must be kept confidential until the minister makes a decision.

Right now, hunters in Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq and Pond Inlet may harvest 105 polar bears per year, under a harvest limits that the Government of Nunavut set in 2005.

In public hearings last fall, the GN made three proposals for the Baffin Bay polar bear population:

• reduce the Baffin Bay bear quota to 64, the level it was until 2005;

• impose a total moratorium on polar bear hunting in Baffin Bay; or

• reduce the target population number for the Baffin Bay population.

Hunting tags cover the period from July 1 to the following June 30, so any new quota rules won’t come into effect until this coming July.

Shewchuk said he hopes the board will submit its final recommendation before March.

That’s when the governments of Canada and Nunavut will send representatives to a meeting of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species in Qatar, where the international body will consider a U.S. proposal to re-classify polar bears as an endangered species.

This would outlaw the export of Canadian polar bear parts, including sport-hunt trophies. If this happens it would effectively destroy Canada’s polar bear sport-hunting business.

Shewchuk acknowledged that a reduced Baffin Bay polar bear quota would be useful when Canada makes its case at the CITES conference.

“It shows we are taking steps to manage our population in a sustainable way and with Greenland too,” he said.

The important thing, Shewchuk said, is to show CITES that Canada is managing a sustainable polar bear hunt.

Inuit hunters in the three affected communities disagree, saying they now see more bears than ever.

Some hunters have threatened to ignore a smaller quota.

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