Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik October 19, 2016 - 3:52 pm

DFO opens restricted fall beluga harvest in Nunavik

“It’s our tradition and culture to make this harvest every fall"

SARAH ROGERS
Inukjuak hunters butcher a beluga whale outside the Hudson coast community last week, the maqtaq of which was shared among residents. DFO opened a restricted fall beluga hunt in Nunavik this month, although Inukjuak wasn't among the communities approved to harvest additional whales. (PHOTO BY YVES CHOQUETTE)
Inukjuak hunters butcher a beluga whale outside the Hudson coast community last week, the maqtaq of which was shared among residents. DFO opened a restricted fall beluga hunt in Nunavik this month, although Inukjuak wasn't among the communities approved to harvest additional whales. (PHOTO BY YVES CHOQUETTE)

(Corrected Oct. 20)

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has approved a fall beluga harvest for Nunavik hunters, although it’s restricted and limited to certain communities.

The region’s total allowable take of beluga whales under its 2014-2016 management plan came to an early close in mid-August—a total of 762 whales—leaving a number of communities short of their own local quotas.

That also signalled an early closure to a harvesting season that typically runs into November.

“It’s our tradition and culture to make this harvest every fall,” said Putulik Papigatuk, a member of Nunavik’s harvesters’ association, the Regional Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigininga (RNUK.)

“Some communities had reached their quota and some had never gone over, but for those who didn’t make their catch, [the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board] made this special request to have an extra quota.”

The DFO approved the request, and on Oct. 14, the federal agency opened a restricted beluga whale hunt in the Hudson Strait area for six communities to harvest between three and four whales per community: Puvirnituq, Akulivik, Kuujjuaq, Quaqtaq, Ivujivik and Kangiqsualujjuaq.

But the restricted hunt hasn’t stopped some other communities from enjoying the fall harvest; hunters in Inukjuak took advantage of the chance to harvest fresh maqtaq when a pod of belugas swam by the Hudson coast community last week.

“They couldn’t resist, it’s an instinct,” Papigatuk said, noting that the DFO has issued a warning to the community.

The most recent management plan was focused on protecting the eastern Hudson Bay stock of beluga whales, considered endangered under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

It was designed to offer hunters flexibility about when and where they hunt beluga, by bumping the quota and leaving the harvest season open throughout the three-year period rather than going year by year.

But above-average harvests in 2014 and 2015 forced the season to close earlier than usual.

The NMRWB is now in discussion with RNUK, Makivik Corp. and DFO to come up with a proposal for a new management plan, which will be up for renewal in early 2017.

Papigatuk said communities across Nunavik want to see a larger quota in 2017; Inuit knowledge throughout the region suggests the beluga stock is healthy, he said.

“We’ll be working towards that, but it’s up in the air for now,” he said.


A previous version of this article stated Putulik Papigatuk was chair of the Nunavik Marine regional Wildlife Board, while he is in fact chair of the Nunavik Marine Regional Impact Review Board and a member of RNUK..

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