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DFO says yes to Coral Harbour bowhead hunt

The chair of Coral Harbour’s bowhead hunt committee says that this year’s Foxe Basin bowhead hunt will be “for all of Nunavut.”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

SEAN McKIBBON

IQALUIT — Hunters in Coral Harbour have been given the go-ahead to conduct a bowhead whale hunt within the next two years.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board announced last week that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has accepted the NWMB’s decision to establish a total allowable hunt of one bowhead every two years from the Foxe Basin/Hudson Bay bowhead stock. Environment Canada lists bowheads as an endangered species.

“People are excited about it. It’s been a long time coming,” said Louie Bruce, the chairman of the bowhead hunt committee in Coral Harbour. He said people from his community have been trying to get a bowhead hunt ever since Tagak Curley was president of ITC in the 1970s. Bruce estimates that the hunt could cost as much as $15,000 and he said his committee would be approaching various organizations in Nunavut to help pay for it.

“We’re hopeful to get funding for it,” he said. “We’re still planning to go ahead with the hunt this summer.”

The licence allows one bowhead to be killed during the open water season of either 2000 or 2001. But it also allows two whales to be struck with hunting weapons in the event of an unsuccessful first attempt.

“It’s everybody’s hope that it’s one strike, one animal. I think that some of the hunting techniques are now developed to the point where a strike is, I think, typically a kill,” said Burt Hunt, area director of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans scientists determined the whale population in the area can sustain a hunt every two years, said Hunt.

He said scientists have recommended that the hunters kill a young adult male bowhead in order to have less of an impact on the whale population, but he conceded that telling the difference between male and female bowheads is difficult.

“It is difficult to do, but we will have our elders with us to guide us,” said Bruce. The hunt is an important cultural event to the people of his community, he said.

Bruce and other members of the bowhead hunt committee in Coral Harbour must still formulate a hunt plan and are not yet sure how many hunters will be involved.

Bruce said, though, that he expects two “long-liner” boats will be used, and that hunters will go to two different locations to look for the whales.

He said meat from the hunt will be shared with other communities, and that his committee will ask other hunters and trappers associations to contribute money to pay for freight.

“This isn’t just for Coral Harbour, this is for all of Nunavut, said Bruce. “We have to all start pulling together.”

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