Polar bear quota increase not enough for communities

“There wasn’t enough IQ in it”


Hunters and trappers organizations have approved eight of 10 agreements on how to manage polar bears in Nunavut.

But two proposals for memoranda-of-understanding are still in limbo, because HTOs in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay, and Gjoa Haven still face divvying up too few bears among too many people.

These HTOs are slowing down the final approval process because the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board won’t recommend new quotas for Nunavut’s 10 polar bear zones until all the MOUs are signed off by local and regional hunters associations.

Quotas for the annual polar bear hunt in Nunavut are likely to increase in 2005, as Inuit Qaujimatuqangit will be used as a basis for the new management plans.

The MOUs will recommend quotas based on scientific numbers for the first six years after a population survey and IQ for the following eight years.

The new management plan recommends that Iqaluit’s allotment of 18 polar bears within the Davis Strait zone should increase by three to five bears.

But Iqaluit’s quota is harder and harder to share among the 2,600-plus people with Inuit hunting rights in Iqaluit — and the small increase isn’t enough, according to the HTO.

“But it’s not just the numbers. There wasn’t enough IQ in it,” said Amarok HTO president Michael Qappiq. “The proposal was very similar to the old one.”

Nunavut’s MOUs were supposed to be ready for the NWMB’s board meeting in September.

Once the MOUs are signed off by the local and regional HTOs and the GN, these “records of consultations” go to the NWMB, which refers its recommendations to the GN’s minister of the environment for final approval.

Delays in the MOU process, which has already been going on for more than three years, are particularly frustrating for hunters in other communities — such as Panniqtuuq and Kimmirut who share the Davis Strait zone with Iqaluit – or in North Baffin where the polar bear population is booming because no zone sees an increase until all the MOUs are approved.

The MOUs are important because Nunavut has a U.S.-approved sports polar bear hunt.

Under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, bear skins and trophies may only be imported from areas of Canada that have healthy bear populations and a sustainable hunt – and can prove it to the U.S. authorities’ satisfaction.

In the case of the two other hold-out communities, Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven, only three bears are up for harvest every year from the depleted M’Clintock Channel — at least for the next six years.

“I wouldn’t say they’re far apart, but when the bears are in such short supply, even one makes a difference,” said Mitch Taylor, a polar bear biologist with Nunavut’s department of the environment. “People are agreed on the three, but it’s how to share those three.”

Taloyoak, which also has access to the M’Clintock Channel stock, is turning to the Boothia Bay zone for its polar bears and its HTO has agreed not to hunt any bears from the M’Clintock Channel.

The hunt in the M’Clintock Channel, which averaged 22 to 38 bears a year during the 1990s, ended abruptly in 2001.

That’s when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped issuing permits for sports-hunted polar bear trophies from the M’Clintock Channel into the U.S. for any bears hunted after May 31, 2000. The NWMB and the GN followed up with a moratorium on polar bear hunting in the M’Clintock Channel.

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