Nunavut has a new polar bear management plan: NWMB

“We are going to do what we can do to get this in place before this season”

Nunavut’s new polar bear management plan brings in a one-to-one male-female harvesting ratio for all Nunavut subpopulations, says the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

(Updated on Sept. 26 at 1:30 p.m.)

CAMBRIDGE BAY—The Government of Nunavut has approved a new polar bear management plan.

That was the news from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to members of the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board at its annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay.

The cornerstone of the new polar bear management plan is the one-to-one male-female harvesting ratio for all Nunavut subpopulations, the NWMB chair, Dan Shewchuk, told those at the meeting.

The gathering in Cambridge Bay is the first of three regional wildlife board annual meetings that he and Jason Akearok, the NWMB’s executive director, plan to attend.

Akearok said getting the polar bear management plan done has been “quite a feat.”

“We are going to do what we can do to get this in place before this season,” he said.

The plan has been under consideration for nearly five years, with a big discussion about the draft plan last March in Iqaluit at an NWMB board meeting.

The plan will be in effect until 2029.

Of the circumpolar world’s 19 subpopulations of polar bears, 12 are found mainly in Nunavut.

There are quotas now for each of those subpopulations—and defence kills fall under annual quotas for each community.

While the new plan won’t increase quotas right now, new total allowable harvests, as the quotas are called, will be considered as new data comes.

Under the previous plan, Nunavut communities could only hunt one female polar bear for every two male polar bears hunted through an annual allotment of community polar bear tags.

That applied everywhere except to a Baffin Bay subpopulation of polar bears, where a one-to-one male-female harvesting ratio was in place.

Under the new plan, it won’t make any difference if a polar bear harvested in Nunavut is a male or female, as long as the balance between males and females is maintained. Cubs will count as a half tag.

This female polar bear leaps into the water near Arctic Bay as her four cubs watch her. Under the new polar management plan, the defence kill of these polar bears would count against three of the community’s polar bear tags. (File photo by Niore Ikalukjuak)

The new one-to-one harvest ratio should allow communities to continue with defence kills, when needed.

Polar bear incursions into communities have been an increasing concern in the territory after two deaths by polar bear mauling in the Kivalliq region last year—but, under the current management plan, the defence killing of a polar bear, when female, has counted as two tags. This has left some communities with no more tags to count on after a defence kill.

The new plan will also encourage communities to engage in polar bear deterrence, Shewchuk told Nunatsiaq News.

But he has previously said that aggressive polar bears are harmful to Inuit culture and lifestyle, because of damage to cabins, bird colonies and seal populations.

Those at the meeting in Cambridge Bay welcomed news of the change in the polar bear management plan.

They were also pleased to learn that Cambridge Bay will have five more tags for grizzly bears. A large grizzly bear was seen, and later shot, after roaming around an area close to Mount Pelly where there are many cabins.

Elsewhere, the reaction to the new polar management plan could be mixed.

Polar bears face an uncertain future due to threats posed by climate change, according to a 2018 assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

The committee, known as COSEWIC, once again assessed polar bears as a “special concern.” That means the species may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.


An earlier version of this story, based on information from the NWMB, said the polar bear management plan had not been approved. In fact, it was approved last week by Nunavut’s environment minister. As well, the earlier version said that federal environment minister had earlier signed off on the plan. This was not the case, the NWMB now says, as such approval was not needed. The additional grizzly tags will be going to Cambridge Bay, not to the entire region as earlier stated.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hunter3 on

    Soooo if an equal number of males and females are to be harvested, then it’s no longer a sex selective harvest.

  2. Posted by Joshua haulli on

    Inuit niqjutiqutingit qallunaanut piliriangungaalingmata.

  3. Posted by Sam Crossley-Osborne on

    I hope humans don’t kill polar bears, because it’s ridiculous!
    There’s another thing, Polar are classified as an endangered species, if you dare kill more Polar bears throughout the years or months, They’ll go extinct! I meant it! Leave these beautiful white creatures alone!
    Stop the Polar bear hunting now!
    Everyone don’t listen to this hunting advertisement, because it shows you about killing animals including polar bears, and it’s illegal. The trophy hunting should be stopped.
    There is another thing, polar bears are classified as endangered species, we can’t let the trophy hunting happen on these white beasts, otherwise they’ll go extinct.

    • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

      The management of polar bears since the introduction of the quota system worked so well since it allowed the removal of less than 10% of the population and deviated from past practices that today polar bears are too numerous for their range and are eating themselves out of house and home. In the days of yesteryear, they would harvest every bear they saw, would hunt them in dens and cubs were a delicacy. The past quota system allowed the harvest of 2 males for every female and protection of family groups. Today they are too numerous and are becoming nuisance creatures instead of the noble and majestic creatures they once portrayed. The world really needs to understand the polar management system and we would not be receiving ridiculous uninformed comments like the post saying they are becoming extinct.

    • Posted by Laimiki Toonoo on

      If you know so much why don’t you come up here and see first hand as to how big the population of the polar bear is. This is an outright invitation but you’d have to pay for your airfare and your meals.

  4. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Sad how many southern people are so misinformed about the status of polar bears. No, they are not endangered and are NOT going extinct. as a matter of fact many of their populations are increasing in Nunavut endangering people out on the land and in communities. They are tightly regulated and it is not a free for all. Inuit have hunted polar bears for thousands of years, it is part of our culture; most of us eat them, they are delicious and nourishing. The hides are either sold as income or made into beautiful durable clothing such as pants and mitts. Who are you to judge other people’s culture?

  5. Posted by Robin Watson on

    I agree with the Inuit.

  6. Posted by Túumasie on

    What a surprise. Our ol’MLA up in Cam Bay ??

  7. Posted by Neil on

    U.S. Geological Survey scientists predict that because of melting sea ice, up to two-thirds of all polar bears will be lost by 2050
    And the negative effects on polar bears can be clearly seen in the science, says Stirling, pointing to the closely studied subpopulation along western Hudson Bay: “They’re losing body condition. Reproductive rates have dropped. Survival rates of young have plummeted. Every indication you would expect from a declining population is there.”
    Of Nunavut’s 13 subpopulations, researchers say only one is growing and four are projected to decline
    When Commerce trumps Science …….

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