Nunavut hooks into profitable fish season
Offshore trawlers employ 70 people

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Sep 14/98) - With economic and political independence hovering on Nunavut's periphery, some fisheries are predicting a profitable season.

Beginning with the Baffin region, the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation said they had plans to extend their reach and were doing exploratory snow crab and Icelandic scallop fishing.

Peter Keenainak, the marine development manager at QC, said that the timeframe on the project extended at least six years into the future.

"They're the two main ones that we're concentrating on right now," said Keenainak, adding that QC was also looking to explore more of the 36 commercially available fish species in Canada.

With a 1998 allocated turbot quota of 280 metric tonnes (down from 281 metric tonnes in '97), Keenainak explained that QC had yet to be assigned their licence, but hoped to be out fishing on Davis Strait by the end of the month.

Because they won't be combining quotas with other organizations this year, Keenainak said QC would team up with the Cumberland Sound Fisheries and lease just one trawler from Davis Strait Fisheries.

This meant that possibly only four beneficiaries would secure turbot fishing jobs with QC as compared to last year's 16 employees.

"We hoped it would be similar to last year...but we don;t know if we can achieve that target."

With the Far East still making up most of the turbot market, Keenainak noted that less than one per cent of the total allowable quota of 1,500 metric tonnes was consumed by the local market.

He said the turbot fishing would be finished for the 1998 season by December.

The shrimp season Keenainak said, runs for the entire year and the 1998 quota is 2,800 metric tonnes.

With two offshore trawlers -- harvesting shrimp for QC -- employing up to 70 people so far, Keenainak said about $2 million in salaries are paid out to Baffin residents.

Scandinavia, Keenainak said, comprised 60 per cent of the shrimp market with Asian countries taking the other 40 per cent.

Keenainak said that to date, 1998 had been a good year for the QC offshore fishery.

"We're getting a much bigger return on our quota compared to last year."

The Kitikmeot Foods Ltd. general manager also reported a good season so far.

With a total quota of almost 36,000 kilograms of char, Mike Smart said they would be done fishing by the end of this month.

Predominantly using fish weirs and gill nets in rivers, the eight to 10 full-time employees fish the char up to 145 kilometres outside of town.

Smart reported that about 25 per cent of the char was consumed by the NWT market.

"We also have markets in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa and Alberta is a big buyer. It's primarily Canada but the States is an option," said Smart.