'If they know where the goddamn animals are, why are they giving me shit?'

Walrus trip ban outrages Igloolik outfitter


An Igloolik outfitter is furious that he's been told by local hunters he isn't allowed to take tourists and filmmakers out to see walrus for the next two years.

Brad Parker, operator of Igloolik Outdoor Adventures, says he expects to lose $50,000 in business this year. He describes the ban, passed by hunters during their annual general meeting in November, as akin to "living in some sort of goddamn dictatorship."

Hunters worry that outfitters are scaring walrus.

But Parker, who has lived in Igloolik since 1994, says that's nonsense. The walrus have just moved in recent years, he says, probably because of earlier spring thaws, which has changed the location of ice floes where walrus congregate.

Hunter and trapper organizations are able to set local hunting rules, but it's unclear whether they have the legal power to ban cameras near the floe edge. Even so, outfitters like Parker don't want to be seen breaking locally-set rules.

A similar brush-up occurred in Arctic Bay last year, where the HTO banned cameras at the floe edge, following the publication of a critical article in National Geographic magazine that described hunters indiscriminately firing at narwhal, with many whales being sunk and lost.

The Arctic Bay ban was believed to have cost one outfitter $200,000 in lost business.

Parker says it's time for communities to decide whether they're serious about wanting to create jobs through tourism, as is often said. If that's the case, he says, these bans need to be overturned.

He also sees an irony in the complaints of Igloolik hunters. He often hears hunters say that animals only look as if they are declining in number because they move around, and that Inuit always know where they are, when wildlife biologists are trying to set quotas on polar bear hunts.

"If they know where the goddamn animals are, why are they giving me shit?"

A bigger threat to walrus than outfitters, Parker says, may be shrinking sea ice or mining developments.

The proposed Baffinland iron mine would result in a deep-sea port being built at Steensby Inlet, a favourite gathering place for walrus near Igloolik.

But, Parker says bitterly, most fears in Igloolik have "got nothing to do with global warming or mining exploration. It's only got to do with me."

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