Nunavik beluga management in a shambles

Many Nunavik hunters have decided to manage beluga hunting on their own


KUUJJUAQ — After only two months, Nunavik’s beluga management plan is already in a shambles:

• Members of Inukjuak’s municipal council recently urged hunters to hunt beluga near their community without reporting their kill numbers to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

• Hunters from Kuujjuaq killed some curious young beluga who ventured near Kuujjuaq in early August, even though the plan asks hunters to avoid beluga hunting in the Ungava Bay region at all times, and urges them to spare females, juveniles and calves.

• Hunters in Quaqtaq are opting out of the plan entirely.

Nunavik hunters negotiated the plan with DFO officials last year. It became official on July 7.

One Nunavik community is already deciding to manage the hunt on its own.

“The people in my community are saying they can manage themselves. They know what to do,” says Johnny Oovaut, the mayor of Quaqtaq.

“We really don’t need them to tell us not to hunt. We support the idea that we can manage our own whales. If we felt they were endangered we would do something about it.”

Harry Okpik of Quaqtaq’s Hunters and Trappers Association said the plan puts too much pressure on hunters.

Okpik also says that, in his opinion, the plan doesn’t respect hunters’ knowledge.

Hunters in Quaqtaq dispute scientific evidence that indicates beluga numbers are falling.

“We’re slowly losing some things we value without any concrete information,” Okpik said.

Quotas, Okpik said, have no place in the beluga hunt.

In any event, hunters in Quaqtaq won’t be forced to stick to the allowable catch of 30 recommended in the plan.

“But we won’t hunt like crazy or let it get out of hand,” Oovaut said.

Oovaut estimated that Quaqtaq’s beluga catch this year’s would be around 30.

He said natural factors, such as reduced ice cover and poor weather, keep the numbers at a reasonable level.

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