Three Nunavut communities approved for 2020 bowhead harvest

But one community will not host the hunt because of COVID-19 concerns

Hunters from Coral Harbour stand atop a bowhead whale caught in June 2018 just outside the Kivalliq community. (Photo by Greg Ningeocheak)

By Emma Tranter

(Updated, July 24, 4:45 p.m.)

The Nunavut communities of Coral Harbour and Sanirajak plan to hold bowhead whale hunts this summer.

A third community, Qikiqtarjuaq, also received approval to hold a bowhead hunt, but has decided not to because of COVID-19 concerns, according to the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board.

Since 2015, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ annual quota for bowhead whales in Nunavut has been set at five per year: two for the Kivalliq region, two for the Qikiqtani and one for the Kitikmeot.

Regional wildlife boards choose which communities receive the tags each year and approve hunt plans.

Fisheries and Oceans said it has already issued a marine mammal fishing licence to the Coral Harbour bowhead hunt captain, while the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board has approved the hunt plan for Sanirajak. A marine mammal fishing licence will be issued to the Sanirajak bowhead hunt captain shortly, the department said.

To date, the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board has not received a community request to host a bowhead hunt this summer, Fisheries and Oceans said.

And the Kivalliq Wildlife Board has only received the request from Coral Harbour.

Last year, bowhead tags were approved for Coral Harbour, Naujaat, Pond Inlet and Igloolik.

When issuing marine mammal fishing licences, Fisheries and Oceans said it directs the bowhead hunt teams to review the COVID-19 recommendations of the chief public health officer.

Bowhead harvests typically occur between the end of July and the end of September.

The harvest quota of Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whales is set to help conserve the animals, which are designated as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Because of travel restrictions, DFO employees can’t travel to the communities taking part in the hunt. Instead, sampling kits will be sent to the communities to collect “biological samples for bowhead stock assessment.”

A previous version of this story said that the Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whale population was listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. In fact, the population is designated as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by saddeded on

    being there for bowhead hunt i feel sad for qik hunters, maybe other community will want help? Dont you think it is important to remember how to hunt them and practice. No cases and no outside help, where is the risk? Maybe hunter help needed on one of the other towns. could be young hunters first time harvest that kind. big pride and forever stories

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