Talks start on expanded muskox, minke whale quotas

Nunavik hunters yearn for those stinky minkes


Coming soon to your dinner menu: two new country food treats.

Nunavik Inuit may soon enjoy a change in their same old diet, if plans by Makivik's Resource Development Department bear fruit.

With conflict increasing over the region's beluga whale quotas, Makivik's annual meeting in Inukjuak earlier this month was told of plans to go ahead with another bowhead whale hunt in 2009.

The first ever recorded bowhead hunt in Nunavik took place last year near Kangiqsujuaq.

But the region's hunters are also angling for the right to begin hunting minke whales too. The animals – significantly larger than beluga – remain abundant world-wide and are hunted by several nations already.

Minkes are known to dive under water for as long as 20 minutes. When they resurface their breath can be smelled by whale watchers, earning them the nickname "stinky minkes."

It remains to be seen whether Nunavimmiut will prefer the flavour of their muktuk and meat as a substitute for the preferred beluga.

Another odiferous species on its way to mealtime in Nunavik is the muskox. Introduced to the region by a government project in the 1970s, this is an experiment that has run wild.

Originally intended as an economic development opportunity – muskox qiviut is highly prized as a cashmere-like wool – it is estimated that some 2,000 animals now roam across Nunavik's tundra.

For five years, hunters in Kuujjuaq and Tasiujaq have had the right to kill eight animals per community.

All of Tasiujaq's quota was taken in a subsistence harvest, for the meat. Kuujjuaq's quota was sold to sport hunters guided by Inuit-owned outfitters.

But Inuit hunters have observed that muskoxen coexist badly with the region's caribou. Several communities have requested the right to begin hunting the animals too.

Despite the name, muskox (also known as Ovibos moschatus, for you Latin lovers) is more closely related to sheep and goats than to true oxen. The species is noted for the strong musky odour emitted by the males.

Like the minke whales, muskox were not hunted traditionally by Nunavik Inuit.

Makivik is beginning discussions now with government authorities to allow Inuit expanded rights to harvest the two species.

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