Whales now listed as of 'special concern'

Bowheads recovering in Arctic, group says

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Bowhead whale stocks are recovering in Canada's Arctic, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada confirmed this week.

Commercial whaling that began in the 1500s severely depleted bowhead populations long before bowheads started to be protected in the 1930s.

But traditional knowledge and scientific research now provide evidence that bowhead populations have been steadily increasing in recent decades, COSEWIC said in a news release.

As a consequence, the committee's members downlisted the status of bowhead in the eastern Arctic from threatened with extinction to "special concern," which is the same status assigned to bowhead in the western Arctic.

"Although the increased abundance is encouraging, the species faces an uncertain future in a rapidly changing Arctic climate," COSEWIC said.

Based on information about the increased numbers of bowhead in Nunavut waters, Nunavut Tunngavik asked for the removal of the total allowable harvest of bowhead whales at a public meeting of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board Feb. 10 in Iqaluit.

If the TAH for bowhead whales is lifted, NTI says Nunavummiut will hunt three bowhead whales until 2012 in community hunts, carefully regulated by the regional wildlife organizations.

With an estimated 14,400 bowhead whales in Nunavut waters, the continued limits on the bowhead hunt are now unjustified, NTI says.

NTI has already acquired hunting gear for three separate hunts in Nunavut in 2009.

The decision from the minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the expanded hunt was expected sometime in April, but no decision has been announced as of Nunatsiaq News press-time.

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