Qikiqtarjuaq hunters make deal for their own trawler

“We’re not fighting the BFC but we want to succeed ourselves”


The Nattivak Hunters and Trappers Association took another step towards building a community-based fishery in Qikiqtarjuaq last week, when they announced a deal with an undisclosed Canadian firm that will give them a groundfish licence and a controlling interest in their own factory-freezer trawler.

The Nattivak HTA announced the agreement just as a “peace mission” of officials from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Baffin Fisheries Coalition arrived in Qikiqtarjuaq to talk about ways of bringing the community back into the BFC.

“We’re not fighting the BFC. We’re not against them and we want them to succeed. But we want to succeed ourselves as well,” said Samuel Nuqingaq, Nattivak’s secretary-treasurer.

The BFC is a not-for-profit corporation set up three years ago by the government of Nunavut, NTI and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. They control 100 per cent of the turbot quota in northern Davis Strait, or zone “0A.” The Nattivak HTA broke away from the group last year in a dispute over the BFC’s policies.

Nuqingaq said the NTI-BFC delegation presented Nattivak’s board with nine options for coming back into the Baffin coalition. The Nattivak board made no decision about whether to accept the delegation’s overtures, but Nuqingaq said they will consider the nine options and decide later.

“It’s up to the board,” Nuqingaq said.

He said their recent agreement, through a new, for-profit firm they’ve created called the Masiliit Corp., would create jobs for up to 30 Qikiqtarjuaq residents.

With a population of about 550, Qikiqtarjuaq suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in Nunavut. Nuqingaq said that sometimes 85 to 90 per cent of adult residents there are unemployed.

The Masiliit Corp. will use the new vessel to fish its longstanding 330-tonne turbot quota in southern Davis Strait, or zone 0B.

Their groundfish licence, however, will allow Masiliit to fish for turbot in southern Canadian waters as well as waters adjacent to Nunavut, should they succeed in acquiring more quota.

For the past six years, the Nova Scotia-based seafood giant, Clearwater Fine Foods, has fished that quota for the community in exchange for royalties and some jobs.

But Nuqingaq said the Nattivak HTA won’t announce the name of their new partner until after the deal is finalized.

They’re also awaiting the results of a study that would look into the feasibility of setting up a commercial fish plant in their community.

Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, the New Democratic Party’s fisheries critic and a co-chair of the Commons standing committee on fisheries, congratulated Nattivak for establishing Masiliit Corp., saying he fully supports their initiative.

Stoffer’s committee is likely to hold hearings on the BFC’s turbot quota, and produce a report on how well they have handled it since 2001.

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