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Managing the managers

Changes coming to narwhal hunt after DFO steps in

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 18/00) - The community of Qikiqtarjuaq has changes to make in the way they manage their narwhal harvest.

When the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) shut down the hunt towards the end of year two of the new management system, the community's harvest came to a screeching halt. The local Hunters and Trappers Association had to make a series of amendments to their bylaws.

Martha Newkingnak, the manager of the HTA, said the community had taken steps to ensure fewer mammals were taken in year three.

When the hunt was closed in the middle of October, 246 narhwal had been landed, struck and lost, and wounded and escaped.

Newkingnak said that next year the total number to be landed, wounded and sunk will be limited to no more than 100.

In addition, each hunter is not allowed to harvest more than five narwhal per season and is only permitted to take two of the marine mammals each time out.

Regulations governing the size of nets were also developed in an effort to prevent smaller females and calves from being killed.

Newkingnak said the community was shocked when DFO closed down the fall harvest.

"Everybody was surprised," she said. "They never told us if we got this many it would be out of hand. From the hunters' point of view, when they see a lot of narwhal they think there's a lot of them."

The suggested amendments still have to be passed by the HTA's membership, but Newkingnak said they were waiting for additional input from DFO and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) to see if further changes should be made.

Conservation concerns

Karen Ditz, the fishery management biologist with the DFO said they closed the harvest because conservation had become an issue.

"There were definitely some concerns," said Ditz.

She said there will be a review of the "entire system for narwhal co-management."

First proposed in 1998 by the Narwhal Working Group, the new co-management system began in 1999. DFO-imposed quotas were lifted for a trial period of three years in three Nunavut communities -- Repulse Bay, Pond Inlet and Qikiqtarjuaq -- after local HTA put regulations in place to govern, monitor and control the hunt in their hamlets.

The new system was touted as progressive in that it was the first time since the land claims agreement was signed that management of wildlife was put back into the hands of Inuit.

At the end of the first season, Repulse Bay officials had to amend their bylaws because they felt they'd harvested too many narwhals.

Planning for year two went ahead in the three communities and the season went forward until DFO officials stepped in in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Ben Kovic, the chair of the NWMB, said he planned to dedicate his time in the new year to education and travel to the communities involved in the co-management system.

"The managers wanted it to run smoothly, but we didn't educate. That's where we were lacking," he said.

Kovic said he wants to ensure that year three goes off without any glitches.

"Community-based management is not new. Our ancestors, our grandfathers lived on that. I want the communities to understand we're not out there to take more than we need."