Whaling gets under way
Westerners out already as Easterners prepare for hunt

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 19/99) - With warmer weather and the ice melt comes an annual Northern tradition: whale hunting.

But aspiring whalers should keep some guiding principles in mind, according to Winston Filltre, Nunavut's chief conservation and protection officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"You need a licence to hunt a whale -- period," Filltre said from his Iqaluit office.

"And there's lots of different quotas from east to west."

Though Filltre said that in some areas belugas do not have quotas, narwhal and bowhead whales do.

Some laws Filltre cited for guidance include "No person shall disturb a marine mammal except when hunting for marine mammals."

Another section Filltre cited reads as follows: "No person shall attempt to kill a marine mammal except in a manner that is designated to kill it quickly."

A third law to keep in mind when out whaling is "Every person who kills or wounds marine mammal will make every reasonable attempt to retrieve it without delay."

Joey Amos, who works with the Fisheries Management Board in Inuvik, agrees with Filltre about the regulations.

Though the situation is rare, he said penalties could be levied if Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials see anyone harassing whales.

"You can't harass the whales. If you're not out there hunting them, you can't be out there harassing them," Amos said.

"Each HTC has a beluga hunting bylaw that they have to abide by. It (says to) harpoon the whale first and then shoot the whale."

By harassing the whales, he said he means tracking or following the whales in a way that could throw them off their natural course and feeding habits.

Another piece of advice Amos offers is for inexperienced harvesters to always go out with experienced ones.

He said the shallow coastal area in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region are prime whaling areas and many go out to their own camps.

Beluga whaling is well under way in the Mackenzie Delta despite windy weather.

"There's definitely people out there and we're getting reports that they're successful getting their catches," said Amos.

"High winds, north-east and north-west winds makes it pretty hard for the whalers to go out.

"When it's calm is the ideal, but nine times out of 10 you won't have that."

Two-foot waves can be OK, but three feet or more Amos says puts whalers in the "danger zone."

After successfully killing a whale, people tie the whale to the side of their boat and then slowly make their way to the land where they butcher it up.

"That's the hard part, getting it from the place where it's harvested."