Baffinland to delay icebreaking at start of 2021 shipping season

Mining company says it’s responding to Inuit requests to protect nearby narwhal

A ship leaves Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s port at Milne Inlet. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

This is what 3/10 ice concentration, or very open drift ice coverage, looks like. Baffinland says it won’t start this year’s shipping season until the concentration of ice at the entrance to Eclipse Sound reaches this level. (Image courtesy of Transport Canada)

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. announced Tuesday it will delay icebreaking at the start of this year’s shipping season to help protect the health of the summer narwhal population in Eclipse Sound.

Baffinland operates the Mary River mine on northern Baffin Island, where it produces and ships six million tonnes of iron ore a year from nearby Milne Port.

The mining company said in a news release it “will avoid icebreaking activities” to help protect narwhal in the area and only proceed with shipping once the ice around the port and entrance to Eclipse Sound is open.

The move comes in response to a request from Pond Inlet hunters, who last month asked Baffinland not to do any icebreaking this year. The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization said the major drop in the local narwhal population is linked to Baffinland’s shipping activities.

“This decision is based on direct response to Inuit input and the recognition of an important community-based project occurring which overlaps with the planned start of the Baffinland shipping season,” said Baffinland’s president and CEO, Brian Penney, in the release.

“Baffinland understands the importance of narwhal, and also the importance of the construction of the small craft harbour in Pond Inlet continuing this year.”

Baffinland’s shipping season usually runs from mid-July through mid-October, depending on ice conditions.

The company said it won’t start this year’s shipping season until the concentration of ice at the entrance to Eclipse Sound is 3/10, or as Transport Canada would define as “very open drift.”

Baffinland estimated its decision would represent a two-week delay in its shipping season, which “is not without significant risk to the company.”

The number of narwhal in Eclipse Sound was nearly cut in half between 2019 and 2020, dropping to 5,019 from 9,931, according to the findings of Golder Associates Ltd., Baffinland’s third-party experts on marine life.

Pond Inlet hunters say the stress that shipping causes to the narwhals is making them thinner and less nourishing to people who eat them.

Baffinland said the icebreaker MV Botnica will still be present in the region, available for escorts as a precaution.

Penney said the company would be “flexible” and “adaptive” in assessing icebreaking activities in the fall and in future seasons.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northerner on

    No sane person believes that the reduction in the norwhal population is due to Baffinland. Over
    hunting and over fishing is the same around the world with reductions in animal and fish populations. Climate change is also affecting this.

    Inuit need to stop pointing the finger and look into the mirror instead for answers.

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    • Posted by What is the Whole Picture? on

      It’s no secret that some hunters have been poaching a large number of narwhale only for their tusks. Narwhale carcasses rotting on the beach leaves a stain on the reputation of responsible hunters and associations like the MHTO. These poachers need to be stopped by their respective communities or there will be no narwhale left within a decade.
      It’s good to see Baffinland is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of narwhale numbers but isn’t the construction of the new dock in Pond Inlet creating a huge amount of noise? If noise pollution is a major concern wouldn’t it make sense to postpone pile driving until the sea ice has receded and the narwhale are heading further north to escape the transient orca pods that relentlessly hunt them during the summer?

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      • Posted by Northern Baffin on

        There ARE hunters who don’t follow traditional practices and hunt just for the tusks,, and yes, they are inuit. there are pictures on facebook last year when a boater found a narwhal carcass floating in the water with just the head taken off, it was not a killer whale kill, the head was clean sliced, no bite marks or anything else. There are inuit poachers….open your eyes, you’ll see them.

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    • Posted by UNGAVA on

      When every whale is killed off , that when you blame Baffinland.

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    • Posted by Karen Orser on

      Regardless, the shipping patterns should be put in place. It’s not ONE thing, it a combination of things. It’s good to work together for long term gain, that is the Inuit way

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  2. Posted by Aputi on

    Killer whales eats narwhals too, stop complaining n go to work

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  3. Posted by Think About It on

    When there are no more Caribou or Narwhal left for sale on Facebook, people will have their hands out for compensation from Baffinland for the damage they caused to the animal population.

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    • Posted by overhunting is the cause on

      Overhunting is the cause of declining Caribou and Narwhal around North Baffin, because we see it here all the time.

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  4. Posted by Inuk Sharpshooter on

    Alot of fickle people talking about animals they never even seen before, yet they sound like they know what their talking about.

    Zero knowledge about animals yet here they are commenting.

    Zero KNOWLEDGE! Yet Talking. Zero KNOWLEDGE!

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    • Posted by Other than seeing them… on

      What knowledge do you bring to the table? Which scientists have you collaborated with to share your knowledge of these species to the world? Are you just another “Inuit Knowledge Keeper” or do you plan on sharing it.

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  5. Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

    For those claiming overhunting of narwhal stocks. Like seriously? Out of like something ti thousand+, a few hundred harvested annually. and that is leading to their population demise? Is that like the polar bear where they claim, they will become extinct in the near future?

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