Whale hunt numbers in
Year one wraps up on narwhal harvest

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Feb 21/00) - The final numbers are in on Nunavut's new narwhal management system.

Implemented by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) in 1999, the system allows communities, through their Hunters and Trappers Associations, to remove the federally-imposed quota style of management for a three-year trial period if they meet certain regulations.

Four communities met those regulations this past year, and with the exception of Arctic Bay, whose membership didn't pass the rules so continued with the quota system, they all began to monitor their own narwhal harvests.

According to Michelle Wheatley, the director of wildlife for the board, things went well given the drastic learning curve involved.

"There are growing pains getting the rules in place and making sure people understand the authority being given to them," said Wheatley.

While all of the communities exceeded their previous quota numbers, she said it wasn't cause for concern. Extenuating circumstances likely made the number of mammals harvested higher than usual.

"There were a lot of factors this year: the way the ice conditions were, the presence of killer whales pushing the animals in -- particularly in Repulse Bay," explained Wheatley.

More specifically, Pond Inlet landed a total of 130 animals, had 14 wounded and escape and 16 killed and sunk; Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island) landed 78 narwhals, had 30 wounded and escape and 18 were killed and sunk; and lastly, 158 narwhals were taken in Repulse Bay with 43 wounded and escape and 34 killed and sunk.

In that each community was given three years to work out the kinks in the new system, it would be inappropriate, Wheatley said, to draw any conclusions after just the first year.

"There was some concern, but also recognition that this is a three-year system. If we see the same numbers again next year, then it would be a concern. It's too early to tell," she said.

Comprised of representatives from NWMB, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the regional wildlife organizations, the body called the Narwhal Working Group -- which presides over the new system for the NWMB -- met in December and went over the harvest numbers and the system.

Wheatley said they put together some ideas and any recommendations they had would go to the board meeting scheduled for March in Iqaluit.

"The board will make any decisions whether there should be any changes to the system."

She further added that the communities of Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay), Hall Beach and Iglulik were also in the process of amending their community bylaws so they could participate in the new system.