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New group urges separate fisheries policy for Nunavut

A new organization called the Baffin Fisheries Council wants Ottawa to develop a separate fisheries policy for Nunavut.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — The newly formed Baffin Fisheries Council urged the federal government this week to develop a separate fisheries policy for the eastern Arctic.

A dedicated northern fish management policy would be the best guarantee of fairness for commercial harvesters in waters adjacent to Inuit homelands, members of the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review panel heard during their stopover in Iqaluit on Tuesday.

“It would go a long way to making serving this area better and ensuring that DFO policies are relevant to all areas of the country,” said Peter Keenainak, the secretary-treasurer of the Baffin Fisheries Council.

But Paul Sprout, leader of the fisheries policy review, reminded representatives from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and local industry that Ottawa is not ready yet to consider any radical changes to the current management practices.

Sprout said the goal of this first phase of the review is to establish what the objectives of Canadian fisheries policy in the Atlantic coast should be.

“The first phase is not designed to answer the question of how many fish we catch by each fisherman. It’s a starting point for answering that question in phase two,” Sprout said.

The Baffin Fisheries Council, composed of businesses, hunters and trappers organizations and public resource management agencies, held its first annual general meeting the day before the review panel arrived in Iqaluit.

Chairman Ben Ell joined Keenainak and representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) in calling for a larger portion of the commercial quota in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, and likened DFO’s response so far to the actions of a stingy parent.

“It seems like giving your son a little piece of chocolate when he asks for one, and I don’t think this is appropriate,” Ell said.

“If I were a shaman I would use my shaman powers to influence you,” he said.

The policy review, the first of its kind in 20 years, is being conducted by DFO in hopes of clarifying the principles that will underlie federal fish management decisions in the Atlantic fisheries in the future.

Sprout conceded that there are inconsistencies in the way the federal fisheries department currently operates. He explained that the main object of the review is, first, to define what the goals of Atlantic fisheries policy should be, and secondly, how to achieve them.

The review panel is also considering setting up a special external working group to make recommendations to DFO before a formal discussion document is drafted in the fall.

Nunavut representatives asked for a seat on this body, to ensure its concerns are heard.

“When there are other Canadians interested in our resources, often we are not consulted,” NTI vice-president Raymond Ningeocheak, told the panel.

In its own written submission to the panel, the Inuit birthright corporation stated that current turbot allocations in the Davis Strait reveal DFO “has no clear or consistent policy objectives related to the eastern Arctic turbot fishery.”

Nunavut currently has just 27 per cent of the Canadian portion of the total turbot quota.

According to NTI, two goals “of overiding importance” to the eastern Arctic fisheries must be conservation and sustainable development of fish stocks; and the development of viable fisheries enterprises that will help Inuit achieve economic self-sufficiency over time.

Sytookie Joamie, the secretary manager of the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization in Iqaluit noted that northern control over resource allocation remains limited because decisions are ultimately made in Ottawa.

“The NWMB sometimes stands for, ‘No way management board,’ because they have so little to give away,” he said.

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