Beluga hunt closes along Nunavik’s coasts

Hunters from Nunavik must now travel for more beluga


Nunavik’s coastal beluga hunt is now closed for the year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced this week.

Earlier this week, the DFO closed Hudson Strait to any more beluga hunting.

“During the closure, beluga hunting is prohibited,” reads a DFO notice to hunters. “Any beluga hunting in the Hudson Strait during this period could lead to prosecution.”

The Eastern Hudson Bay and the Ungava Bay areas were already closed for beluga hunting this year.

The 2006 Beluga Management Plan says a reduction in the 2007 quota will be imposed if there is any over-harvesting this year.

If hunters go over the maximum allowable catch this autumn, the DFO is ready to beef up its patrols.

The end of the hunt in the Hudson Strait will be tough for communities such as Akulivik and Ivujivik to obey. Last year, their hunters took 28 and 17 belugas respectively in late October.

And hunters in some Nunavik communities haven’t killed any belugas.

Puvirnituq, Inukjuak and Umiujaq hunters haven’t caught any yet, although hunters from Kuujjuaraapik killed two from James Bay.

The DFO says Nunavik hunters caught many belugas in the spring, because the spring migration through Hudson Strait was larger than usual.

Here was the count as of Aug. 16, just prior to the Hudson Strait closure: Kangiqsualujjuaq had eight belugas, Kuujjuaq 16, Tasiujaq 16, Aupaluk 10, Kangirsuk 16, Quaqtaq 17, Kangiqsujuaq 15, Salluit 19, Ivujivik 15 and Akulivik and Kuujjuaraapik with two each.

For 2006, the overall total allowable catch is 170 belugas: 135 from the Hudson Strait, 30 from James Bay and Long Island, and five from the Ottawa Islands, on a test basis.

Another 50 could be caught from around the Belcher Islands before July 1 or after October in Western Hudson Bay, under an agreement with Nunavut hunters.

The beluga hunt was completely closed this year again along Eastern Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay.

Last year’s total catch in the Hudson Strait was 149, 14 more than the quota of 135.

To enforce hunt closures in Nunavik, the Kativik Regional Government’s renewable resource officers and the DFO are patrolling the coasts.

But even if hunters have to travel farther now for more beluga, Nunavik’s beluga hunt could have been completely cut off this year.

Earlier this summer, Rona Ambrose, the federal minister of the environment, recommended against listing the beluga whale as endangered or as a species at special risk.

In doing so, she rejected a recommendation by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife, which is supposed to provide expert advice to the federal government on wildlife issues.

COSEWIC decided to seek a higher level of protection for five beluga populations: two in Nunavik and three in Nunavut.

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