Noting fewer narwhal, North Baffin hunters ask Baffinland not to break ice

Company is approved to conduct icebreaking between July 15 and Oct. 15

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

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Hunters from Pond Inlet are asking Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. not to do any icebreaking this year near the northern tip of Baffin Island, saying that mounting evidence shows that icebreaking is harmful to the health of narwhal.

The number of narwhal in Eclipse Sound — a body of water near the port that Baffinland uses for shipping iron ore — is affected by the company’s operations and 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.

Eric Ootoovak, chairperson of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said the decrease is due to the Mary River mine operations. Baffinland ships six million tonnes of iron ore a year from its operations there.

“Science is finally catching up with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit [traditional knowledge] by recognizing the disturbance to narwhal,” Ootoovak stated in a June 25 news release.

“It’s time for Baffinland to take serious action to stop this disturbance, including cancelling its planned icebreaking.”

The hunters’ group also cited a study that found the stress level in narwhals is increasing and affecting their health, which many Inuit groups say is making the narwhals skinnier and less nourishing.

The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization is opposed to Baffinland’s expansion proposal to double its annual ore shipments and build a railway and dock at Milne Inlet.

The proposal is currently before the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which had to suspend its hearing on the project when there was a COVID-19 outbreak in Iqaluit in mid-April.

Baffinland spokesperson Heather Smiles said the company agrees that there are fewer narwhal, but this could be due to factors other than the mine’s operations, such as an increase in killer whales and underwater pile driving in Pond Inlet.

“These factors may have acted independently or cumulatively,” she said. “All of these factors were either unique in 2020 or more prominent than in 2019.”

The company hasn’t decided whether it will send icebreakers this year, Smiles said. But she said a “precautionary approach” will be taken because of the low number of narwhal last year.

Baffinland has adopted “conservative” measures that are a product of feedback from Inuit groups, Smiles said.

She pointed to the company’s marine wildlife management plan, which includes two adaptive management measures that could be used: changing the ships’ schedule to avoid times when contact with narwhal is more likely to happen, and find alternative routes.

But Ootoovak said in a June 25 letter to Baffinland and the review board that the mitigation measures are unclear.

Baffinland can begin icebreaking around July 15, depending on ice conditions, and end around Oct. 15, Smiles said.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Malachi Arreak on

    Every eagle-eyed hunter can easily spot forked tongues and see more lies from non-Inuit just like DARWIN’s theory of evolution.
    Inuit should request assistance from the Communists, since Canada does not care.
    Inuit can easily do what we did 1000 years ago when the Vikings tried to land in Milne Inlet. Baffinland can sink for all we care.

    • Posted by Fun Facts on

      When the first Vikings landed on South Baffin Island they met and traded with the Tuniit, who were later displaced by the ancestors of modern Inuit. Would love to know more about their journeys to North Baffin, I’ve never heard any evidence for that before.

    • Posted by Just another ape on

      Vikings aside, are you saying the theory of evolution is a lie too?

      I dug this part of the article: ““Science is finally catching up with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.”

      Awesome, so tell us what IQ is going to replace evolution with?

  2. Posted by Concerned on

    That’s a poor attitude to have about such a environmentally friendly mine . If Baffin land closes a lot of Inuit will be out of a very good paying job and will be looking for welfare. In such a nepenestist communities people only get jobs if there family of bosses. Baffinland will hire everyone and this is probably what the complainers don’t like . A mine that don’t use chemicals for leaching is great for the environment. As for narwhals they are over hunted for money not like years ago for food . Most of those hunting have high paying jobs in the community and don’t care about all those workers that will lose jobs and that’s a fact

    • Posted by Baffinlander on

      Baffinland isn’t environmentally friendly, hunters aren’t allowed to take in water near or in vicinity anymore. Seals skins starting to looking they’re burnt, especially in Milne inlet. Narwhals always have quotas, the hunts in all of the Baffin are heavily restricted. You’re just making assumptions

    • Posted by Someone Inootik on

      Friendly !
      Iron oxide is showing up to 100 miles it’s red . That stain will stick to the land forever .
      Can not be cleaned it stains .
      Iron oxide is used for cutting other metals by fire .
      Your blood is made from iron oxide same with all the animal near Mary River .
      P.S. there are no Inuit share holders at Baffin Land co.
      But most Qalunaaqs are holding shears in our Nunavut . $$?

      • Posted by Observer on

        Of course there’s iron oxide all over the place; that’s why there’s a mine there in the first place. Being surprised at finding iron oxide in that area of the North Baffin is like being surprised to find water in a lake. There’s a reason the soil in that region is naturally red.

    • Posted by Baffiner on

      Lol, what a pile of crap. Still laughing. The only one who got any structural benefit was the old feller who built a shack from thejr scrap wood.

    • Posted by Hunter on

      You do realize they are tagged, right?

  3. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    Vikings tried to land in Milne Inlet? Tell us more, please.

  4. Posted by Aputi on

    Stop complaining and get to work

    • Posted by aputi on

      And yet people complain about the amount of welfare,why not work and make money, stop being a spoiled child

  5. Posted by Delbert Reid on

    Seems to me that Narwhale tusk are over hunted for their tusk. Please stop the b.s. man up and truly say what the hunters and trappers are up to. Money.

    • Posted by 24 hour darkness vitamin D maktaaq eater on

      This. Person. Does. Not. Know. What. Their. Talking. Aboot.

      We eat the skin, make jerky out of meat, feed the dogs, cache the meat for winter, bring the maktaaq for the family and friends, send some to other communities, and alot more i didnt write. And FINALLY we sell the tusk for spare change.

      We see the colour right through you. We’re not poachers, WE’RE THE GREAT HUNTERS OF THE NORTH. Best wild survivors, best wild hunters, and the GREATEST Big Game Hunters in the world!

  6. Posted by Delbert Reid on

    I have thought about not replying. I can’ let your comments go unchallenged. I have seen too much waste of animals in the North. Over hunting of Caribou killed for money, polar bear killed for their hides Narwhals shot and left to sink tp the bottom. Because the tusk were not suitable for sale. I just want the truth to be out there. So people will acknowledge what is really going on. The real picture of what’s happening must be told. Be for this land is decimated and ruined b. Leaving only endangered herds of Caribou , polar bear not only dealing with climate change. But greedy hunters and yes Narwhal that provides a bit of spare change.

    • Posted by Still eating maktaaq on

      Oh to live in a fickle and filtered reality. Moral police over here, “spreading the truth.”

      Im glad your supposed reality will never impact Inuit hunting. Telling the truth, sure Sherlock!

  7. Posted by Delbert Reid on

    When the wild life is hunted to extinction. Then the trueth will be told. Oh to have so little for sight for the generations that follow.

    • Posted by Generational Hunter on

      Raise your hand if your culture has extincted a species.

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