Bowhead hunt a go
Feds give nod to another bowhead whale hunt

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 10/97) - Nunavut whalers have received federal approval to go after another bowhead whale either this summer or next.

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Fred Mifflin accepted a Nunavut Wildlife Management Board recommendation that hunters be given a two-year quota of one bowhead.

The decision comes less than a year after a controversial hunt off the shores of Repulse Bay.

The bowhead taken last August was the first to be harvested legally by Eastern Arctic Inuit in more than two decades.

Though hailed by some as a welcome return to Inuit tradition, the hunt sparked criticism from others who saw it as little more than a poorly orchestrated, politically motivated publicity stunt.

NWMB chairman Ben Kovic said reaction from environmental groups will have to be gauged before the hunt happens, if it happens at all.

"There's a lot of pressure from international animal rights groups. If this hunt is going to create a disaster for export of other products, we'll have to take a look at that."

If the whale hunt does occur, Kovic said the management board will be taking a lower profile role.

"I learned last year not to get too involved. I think the reason we were involved was because we didn't know how it would go. This year we will let someone else handle that, not the board."

In an attempt to avoid the mistakes that occurred last year, the board commissioned an independent report on the 1996 hunt. It is currently evaluating the report.

This time the harvest is to take place in Baffin waters.

Federal approval allows for two strikes, but only one landing of a whale, which is classified as an endangered species. Scientists estimate that fewer than a thousand remain in Eastern Arctic waters.