Nunavik gets new management system for beluga harvest
No seasonal closures under new system, but quotas still to be determined
The federal department of Fisheries and Oceans has approved a new management system for the beluga whale harvest in Nunavik.
Under the new system, developed by the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, there will be no seasonal closures.
The beluga hunting season has typically been open from late April to November.
Now, the areas along the Eastern Hudson Bay, the Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay are open to hunting beluga until Jan. 31, 2017, when the system will no longer be valid, or until the quota is reached.
But the overall quota for belugas has not yet been determined.
That’s because the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board will host a workshop in Inukjuak next week to present the new management system to Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujjiqatigiinningit, a meeting of hunters and trappers organizations from across the region.
During the workshop, the groups will come up with a detailed community hunt plan, said Mark O’Connor, the NMRWB’s director of wildlife management.
The focus of the new plan is on the Eastern Hudson Bay beluga stock, he said, but the exact quota will depend on where and when communities plan to harvest.
The NMRWB provided its recommendations on 2014 beluga harvest quotas to DFO earlier this year, based on previous community consultations with Nunavik hunters who said they wanted to see changes to the system to better suit community needs.
Officials with the NMRWB have said they want to avoid incidents like the one in Quaqtaq in 2012 where hunters were caught by authorities for hunting beluga outside the scheduled season.
In November 2012, hunters from three Ungava Bay communities harvested seven belugas near the community of Quaqtaq, while a herd of about 200 animals swam by.
But the hunters went home empty-handed after the DFO — which had tracked the hunters by helicopter — seized the belugas, noting the quota for the season had already been met.
Without a set quota at the beginning of the 2014 spring beluga harvest season, the NMRWB got a variation order for an interim opening to the season to allow Inuit to hunt.
Between April and September, Nunavimmiut harvested 240 belugas from the region’s waters.
The DFO gave notice of the new system Aug. 31, although many of its details still need to be worked out.
As it has before, the system will allow harvesting in the Hudson Strait, eastern Hudson Bay, Ungava Bay, and farther south in the Long Island and Ottawa Islands areas.
The following areas remain closed to beluga harvesting at all times: Nottingham Island and Salisbury Island, Mucalic Estuary and Little Whale River Estuary.
The Marine Mammals Regulations also prohibit the harvesting of beluga calves and females with calves.
Monitoring of the system will continue to be done by the Kativik Regional Government’s Umajuit wardens.
Beluga whales in both the Ungava Bay and Eastern Hudson Bay regions have been designated as “endangered” since 2004 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWC).