DFO gives hunters one-time payout

Hunters oppose cut in beluga quotas but will comply, Nunavik HTA says



The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is offering $50,000 to hunters in Nunavik to help organize this year’s beluga hunt after slashing annual quotas last week.

Last Friday, DFO announced that harvest quotas would be cut to 15 whales per community to protect the dwindling beluga population.

Last summer, an aerial survey showed 200 beluga in Ungava Bay and 1,200 along Eastern Hudson Bay. Last year, hunters were allowed to harvest 360 animals, but at least 395 were taken. Biologists warned those harvest levels could lead to the animal’s extinction within 15 years.

Now each of the 14 communities can harvest a maximum of 15 belugas from Hudson Strait and James Bay. Hunting is prohibited in Ungava Bay and the eastern part of Hudson Bay.

Michel Tremblay, a DFO advisor for the aboriginal fishery in the Quebec region, said the money would come from the DFO budget this year and be managed by Makivik Corporation to help those in need.

Since the decision was made so late in the season, he said, people in communities far from their allowable harvesting area will need help with things such as gasoline costs and boat rentals.

“We shouldn’t consider that as compensation,” Tremblay said. Some Inuit leaders have called for compensation from the federal minister responsible for fisheries, but have received no answer.

“As far as the region is concerned we don’t have that kind of money,” Tremblay said. “If we are going to a recovery plan, this will take maybe 15 years to recover so if we’re talking about compensation now we will have to talk about compensation for the 15 coming years.”

Paulusi Novalinga, the head of Nunavik’s Anguvigak Hunters and Trappers Association, said he isn’t interested in compensation.

“I don’t think we should rely on the compensation because it’s a traditional activity first of all and it’s something we’re going to lose if money gets involved,” he said. “There’s no value in the traditional and cultural aspect of it.”

He said he’s telling hunters to respect the quota.

“If we hope to one day manage our own beluga and other species, then we need to respect what’s been put out on the table by the authorities and also ourselves,” he said.

But, he said, forcing hunters to travel to hunting grounds they don’t know can be dangerous.

“It’s not feasible at all, it’s also dangerous and it’s unheard of. We’ve never gone hunting in the James Bay area,” he said. “The water is murky and shallow and it’s dangerous to try and go to a place you’ve never been. We risk our lives if we go to the James Bay.”

Lucassie Inukpuk, the mayor of Kuujjuarapik, said the community has not harvested more than 15 whales for the past few years, so the quota numbers aren’t as much of a problem.

Hunters in the community are allowed a total of 15 beluga, five from James Bay and 10 from Northern James Bay (Long Island) But Inukpuk said it’s between 100 and 150 miles for hunters to travel through James Bay.

“We’re drafting a letter to see if [DFO is] going to compensate us for the use of outboard motors and the wear and tear, and we’re talking about gasoline, oil, food supply,” he said.

Inukpuk figures it takes about 75 gallons of gasoline to get to the area, not including oil, and the gas is costs about $30 for five gallons, plus the cost of food.

“We’re talking about a good $500 to $600 per trip for a canoe,” he said.

The mayor of Akulivik, Eli Aullaluk, said his community would obey the order that they harvest their 15 belugas from the Hudson Strait, even though they do not agree with it.

It’s about 130 miles to get to Hudson Strait where they normally harvest, he said.

“We harvest beluga in our immediate area, but this agreement will prohibit us from doing that.” The community harvests about 10 whales a year, he said, and would like to see compensation for not being able to hunt from the community.

Quaqtaq’s mayor, Johnny Oovaut, said his community wants compensation, but he isn’t clear on how the government feels about it. Hunters there are allowed 15 whales from the Hudson Strait. He said they usually harvest about 60 and about 12 have been taken already.

“Just in case it’s true that the whale population is being depleted we’ll comply,” he said, but added the community cannot be held responsible for the actions of those who do not follow the orders.

“I hope DFO will understand that it will not be the community’s decision to go over the quota. It will be individual decisions,” he said.

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