'It's too bad some communities deprive others of their harvest.'
Some hunters ignoring beluga quota
Some Nunavik hunters are ignoring the region's 2007 beluga management plan, with several communities already exceeding quotas for the Hudson Strait.
As soon as the total allowable catch of 120 for the Hudson Strait is reached, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it plans to close the beluga hunt in that zone.
If hunters continue to kill beluga there, the DFO will cancel its pilot project for a winter hunt in the Hudson Strait and reduce next year's quota for the zone to compensate for the over-harvest.
Adamie Kalingo, mayor of Ivujivik, has been trying to encourage his community's hunters to follow quotas set by the 2007 beluga management plan.
Kalingo, who also represents the Kativik Regional Government on Nunavik's Lumaaq beluga co-management committee, said he's upset at seeing hunters from other communities taking much more than their share of beluga, especially since they agreed to the quotas in this year's beluga management plan.
A hunter from another Hudson Strait community took seven whales by himself. That's way too many for one hunter, Kalingo said.
"The hunters who aren't respecting the regulations – they're indulgent," he said. "I'm highly disappointed some communities are not controlling their hunters. I don't know what went wrong in providing information. We did our part here."
In Ivujivik, hunters had a hard time getting out to hunt in the early summer due to heavy ice. People were hungry, Kalingo said, because they couldn't reach bird cliffs to gather eggs until it was too late.
But, even so, Kalingo advised his community's hunters to only take half their quota of 15 whales. This would save some for the autumn migration of belugas through the Hudson Strait and the new winter hunt.
Now Kalingo feels frustrated when he looks at latest figures for the numbers of belugas already taken in the Hudson Strait:
- 11 in Kangirsuk, which is only supposed to take nine from the Hudson Strait;
- 19 in Kuujjuaq, which surpassed its quota for Hudson Strait of 13 by six;
- 19 in Kangiqsujuaq, which exceeded its quota of 15 by four; and
- 25 in Salluit, which took 10 more belugas than its quota of 15.
According to the most recent statistics from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, only 26 belugas remain to be hunted before the Hudson Strait quota is filled – and Ivujivik has only taken seven of its 15 whales, Akulivik none of its eight and Puvirnituq none of its 11.
Among the Ungava Bay communities, only Kuujjuaq and Kangirsuk have caught any belugas in the Hudson Strait.
For all these communities to fill the rest of their quota, there would have to be 40 belugas left to hunt in the Hudson Strait quota.
But there are only 26 beluga left, so some Nunavimmiut are likely to go without a taste of muktuk this year.
If hunters attempt to fill their communities' quotas after the Hudson Strait is closed to beluga-hunting, the quota will be reduced by a similar amount next year, making a bad situation even worse in 2008.
"We can't do anything else. We are trying to find a management plan, which will allow the recovery of an endangered species. It's too bad some communities deprive others of their harvest," said Michel Tremblay, the regional director of the DFO's Aboriginal Fisheries Division in Quebec City.
Like Kalingo, Tremblay said he hoped there would be better compliance with this year's beluga management plan, which re-opened the Eastern Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay to hunting and offered the Hudson Strait communities a higher quota.
Last year, the DFO investigated hunters in Ivujivik for violations of the Fisheries Act when they hunted beluga after the Hudson Strait was closed to hunting.
"When decisions are made, it's important to stick to them," Tremblay said.