Narwhal harvest rules change
Community-based policies being developed

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Apr 12/99) - When Pond Inlet's public meeting gets under way this week, community members will have quite a serious, yet exciting, task before them.

According to Elijah Nashook, the chair of the narwhal committee in the hamlet, the community will at long last get to have final say on the rules and regulations of the newly-developed and home-grown narwhal management system.

"This is what the hunters have been waiting for," said Nashook of the community-based monitoring that's set to replace the outdated and inaccurate quota system, formerly maintained by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Following last year's move by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the DFO to establish the Narwhal Working Group and lift the quotas, DFO's minister, David Anderson, gave his nod of approval for a three-year trial. Since then, four communities, all of which actively harvest narwhals and were affected by the old quota system, have been chosen to participate in the first year of the project -- something Nashook said has been a long time coming.

"The people have been waiting for community control. It's been pretty tough and we've had elders involved in this process and we're moving ahead. We hope to have the new bylaws in place by the spring and summer hunts," said Nashook.

Similar progress has also been made in Qikiqtarjuaq and Arctic Bay and a representative from Repulse Bay said he thought his community would have their final submission into the NWMB within the next few weeks -- under Article 5 of the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement, the NWMB must approve any and all changes made to the harvest of wildlife species.

"They still have to be accepted by the general membership of the community and the (Hunters and Trappers Association). It hasn't gone through that yet," explained Joani Kringayark, a wildlife officer employed by the Department of Sustainable Development.

Acting purely in an advisory role to the hamlet and the HTA, Kringayark said it had been a tough task to understand how to develop the new system, but they had finally succeeded in forming their new bylaws.

He added that figuring out how to comply with certain sections of the land claim had also been difficult because not only was the HTA responsible for enforcing the new system, the communities were responsible for handing out the punishments to their members if the rules are broken.

"Repulse is one of the targets for other communities like Arviat, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet, Chesterfield. They don't have any narwhals so they come to Repulse Bay to harvest them. There's no problem controlling people in our own community, but the trouble is other people coming in and not following the rules...and they can't keep anybody from harvesting as long as they're beneficiaries," explained Kringayark.

Once the NWMB receives the amended rules from each of the communities, it will look them over and then pass them on to the DFO for final approval before the new system becomes official.

Glenn Williams, a member of the Narwhal Working Group, said the project was one of the first indicators of the impact of the land claim and that while there was some room for error, it was a real step towards self-determination.

"What's interesting now is can the communities do it? Can they set up their bylaws to govern local hunters to show they've got control over the hunt? Let's see if the communities can do it the way they used to do it before there were quotas," said Williams.

He also spoke of the necessity of the hamlets to keep accurate records of their hunts, including information on the struck and loss and landed numbers.

"They have to ensure they collect information we don't already have. There's still going to be restrictions. There's good and bad to it, advantages and disadvantages...but it's probably the most progressive move that's ever been made in wildlife."

The NWMB's director of wildlife management, Michelle Wheatly, said the board hoped to be able to look over the communities' submissions during its next meeting in May so it could proceed with this year's hunts using its own monitoring systems.

As all of the kinks are gradually worked out, other communities will begin to work on the project.