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Polar bear quotas may go up

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 08/04) - In response to what hunters have been saying for years, a proposal which could see significant increases to Nunavut's polar bear hunting quotas is now being reviewed.

There may be more stuffed polar bears available for sale after the Nunavut Wildlife Management board makes a final decision on how much to raise Nunavut's bear quota numbers. - photo courtesy of Manfred Huellbusch

It has been reported that recent work has measured the population in some regions at nearly four times what it was once thought to be.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has final say on all quota increases.

But under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, none of the parties involved in the decision-making process can comment on the potential outcome.

But hunters in the North Baffin -- where it has been reported the increase could be the most significant -- are giving the secret proposal mixed reviews.

Jayko Alooloo of the Mittimatalik Hunters' and Trappers' Association in Pond Inlet says the community has requested a yearly increase of eight bears -- to 30 from 22. The increase is needed for safety reasons because "there are a lot more polar bears coming into town," Alooloo said.

The quotas form the basis of Nunavut's polar bear sport hunting industry. There are approximately 120 hunters who visit the territory looking to bag a bear each year.

Each is worth from $24,757-$34,385, which is down from the previous prices of about $43,000.

More bears may provide an additional economic benefit through the selling of hides -- although the price of bear is currently low, Alooloo said.

According to a taxidermist, a good quality eight to nine foot bear skin would be purchased for between $1,500 and $2,000.

But any quota increase would have to be significant for it to have any effect on small businesses that deal in hides, said Manfred Huellbusch, president of Alberta Taxidermy Industries Ltd. His company purchases between 50 and 60 bear hides a year from Nunavut. "It wouldn't have any effect because I'm sure they're not doubling or tripling it." Some hunters wouldn't sell their hide to him anyway.

Arctic Bay HTO manager Collene Taqtu said she has never caught a polar bear herself, but "even if I did, I would not sell it."