Nunavik’s beluga harvest is open, but a new plan won’t come until 2021

“It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s inching towards that”

Nunavik wildlife officials say DFO reopened the beluga harvest without first communicating its decision to regional authorities on Oct. 30, causing some conflict and confusion in communities. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik’s springtime beluga whale harvest is officially underway, but a new management plan won’t come until next year.

Adamie Delisle Alaku, Makivik’s vice-president of environment, wildlife and research, speaks on January 2020 at a beluga management hearing. (Photo by Elaine Anselmi)

On May 15, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans signed off on an interim measure, extending the most recent plan—which ended in January—until a new plan is approved, which could take until 2021.

The following areas around Nunavik are now open for harvesting: Eastern Hudson Bay, North Eastern Hudson Bay, Ottawa Islands, Hudson Strait, Ungava Bay, Long Island and James Bay.

Under Nunavik’s 2017-20 beluga management plan, the region could harvest the equivalent of about 200 beluga whales from the eastern Hudson Bay stock—a population that was at the time considered endangered but has since stabilized.

Under a complex formula, any beluga hunted outside the area was counted against that subspecies, but at a different rate.

Although harvesters are anxious for a new plan—one that gives Inuit more say—Tommy Palliser, the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board’s executive director, said the goal now is just to ensure that Nunavik Inuit can get out hunting.

“We were hoping that the interim measure would be at least what we have now; we weren’t even sure if DFO would get back to us in time,” Palliser said, noting potential administrative delays due to COVID-19.

“It’s springtime now—beluga whales are passing by and Inuit are ready to harvest,” he said. “We’re just happy these interim measures are in place to make sure we’re not harvesting outside of the management plan.”

Ice breakup has already begun along the Hudson coast, which in mid-May is earlier than typically seen in the region. Strong winds have pushed ice south, creating patches of open water along the bay.

Belugas have already been spotted north of Inukjuak, Palliser said, where the whales begin to migrate to their summering grounds.

The NMRWB intends to submit its proposed management plan this week, to which the DFO has 60 days to respond. Palliser didn’t reveal details about the new plan but called it “progressive.”

The plan is meant to reflect feedback the organization gathered at January 2020 hearings, where Makivik Corp. and some other groups said they wanted to see the DFO’s quota-focused plan scrapped in favour of an Inuit-managed system.

For its part, the DFO wants the current system to continue for another two years, to serve as a transition period to whatever new system is developed.

“It’s a delicate balance between DFO’s science and Inuit traditional knowledge,” Palliser said. “We’re trying to make sure we walk that fine line to satisfy both sides. It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s inching towards that.”

In years past, each Nunavik community has communicated its beluga harvest needs through its local hunters’ organization, or Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigiinninga.

In drafting a new plan, the NMRWB works with DFO on setting a total allowable take (TAT).

The Regional Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigiinninga (RNUK) then allocates those quotas to the communities.

The RNUK’s spring allocations, by community, are listed in the document below.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Concern Sovereign on

    Kuujjuaq got 35 for a community that probably won’t even see any in Ungava south

    • Posted by Kuujjamiuk on

      Hey , we are the capital of Nunavik

  2. Posted by Tommy Palliser on

    Thank you Sarah Rogers, Nunatsiaq News, but there needs to be some clarifications and corrections:

    The interim measures, or the opening of the Beluga season now is until the next management plan is approved by the DFO Minister, which could be by this fall 2020.

    The NMRWB works with DFO on setting a Total Allowable Take (TAT), for the Nunavik Marine Region and include any Non-Quota Limitations (NQL’s). The Regional Nunavimmi Uumajulirijiit Katujiqatigiinninga (RNUK) then allocates the TAT to the communities, with the input of the Local Nunavimmi Uumajulirijiit Katujiqatigiinninga (LNUK’s) and technical support from staff of the NMRWB.

    My apologies for not clarifying earlier.

    Thank you,

    Tommy Palliser

  3. Posted by Umiujaq hunter on

    How in the world should I harvest part of our quota all the way up in Hudson Strait from where I live. It’s a joke not worth mentioning again. Hunter’s from Ungava communities and from Hudson Strait will again be catching belugas which I believe meant for Hudsoners, not hunter’s from other parts of Nunavik, which seems to be the case again.

    • Posted by Choke on the blubber on

      If you have this mindset, Umiujaq Hunter, Umiujaq-miut will be asked to cover all your gas and supplies and not get even a bite in return. I bet you’ll arrive from your hunt with stone cold, hardened faces not allowing anybody to even say “welcome back “ making sure not to share

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