Nunavik beluga season closing

Only one left in quota as of last week

By JANE GEORGE

Got a hankering for fresh muktuk? You may be out of luck.

That’s because Nunavik’s 2006 beluga hunt is just about over, according to the latest Department of Fisheries and Oceans statistics.

The numbers show that only one more beluga may be killed along the Hudson Strait before the DFO formally closes the hunt there.

The end of the hunt will be tough for communities such as Akulivik and Ivujivik to obey. Last year, their hunters took 28 and 17 belugas respectively in late October.

And not all Nunavik communities have even killed any belugas.

Puvirnituq, Inukjuak and Umiujaq hunters haven’t caught any at all yet, although hunters from Kuujjuaraapik killed two from James Bay.

The DFO says Nunavik hunters apparently caught many belugas in the spring because the migration through the Hudson Strait was larger than usual.

Here’s the score to date: Kangiqsualujjuaq has eight belugas, Kuujjuaq 16, Tasiujaq 16, Aupaluk 10, Kangirsuk 16, Quaqtaq 17, Kangiqsujuaq 15, Salluit 19, Ivujivik 15 and Akulivik and Kuujjuaraapik stand at two.

For 2006, the global total allowable catch is 170 belugas: 135 from the Hudson Strait, 30 from James Bay and Long Island and five from the Ottawa Islands on a pilot basis.

Another 50 could be caught from around the Belcher Islands before July 1st or after October in the Western Hudson Bay, according to an agreement with Nunavut hunters.

The beluga hunt was completely closed this year again along the Eastern Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay.

Last year’s total catch in the Hudson Strait was 149, 14 more than the quota of 135.

The 2006 Beluga Management Plan says a reduction of 2007’s quota will be imposed in case of any similar over-harvesting this year.

So, as it stands now, if hunters want beluga, they will have to travel.

But if hunters go over the maximum allowable catch this autumn the DFO is ready to beef up its patrols.

In the meantime, the Kativik Regional Government’s renewable resource officers and the DFO continue to patrol the coasts.

Nunavik’s beluga hunt could have been cut off completely this year.

However, earlier this summer, Rona Ambrose, the federal minister of the environment recommended against listing the beluga whale as endangered or as a species at special risk.

In doing so, she rejected a recommendation by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife, which is to provide expert advice to the federal government on wildlife issues.

COSEWIC decided to seek a higher level of protection for five beluga populations: two in Nunavik and three in Nunavut.

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