Nunavik gives reluctant approval to shared polar bear quota of 60
"We’ve never over-harvested"
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says that Inuit officials and wildlife associations have agreed to an annual shared quota of 60 polar bears for the South Hudson Bay region.
NTI along with Makivik Corp., Cree officials, wildlife management boards and representatives of the federal, provincial and territorial governments met in Inukjuak last week, where they agreed to a “temporary, voluntary total quota of 60 bears per year,” said NTI’s Sept. 26 press release.
“This is a strong and successful example of Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik responsibly managing our shared polar bear population,” said NTI vice-president James Eetoolook in the release.
Before the decision, Nunavut was the only jurisdiction to set a quota of 25 bears on the management zone, for the community of Sanikiluaq.
Eetoolook said the long-term objective is to develop a management plan that involves Inuit, Cree, wildlife management boards and governments.
But many Nunavimmiut feel the quota announcement was premature, since the new agreement must first be approved by Nunavik’s communities along southeastern Hudson Bay.
Many Nunavik hunters say the decision is unfair, because Nunavik has never had strict regulations for its polar bear hunt.
Under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, there is no management plan, but rather a loose quota of roughly 60 bears for Cree and Inuit to harvest.
Paulusie Novalinga, the president of Nunavik’s Anguvigaq Hunters and Trappers Organization, said Nunavimmiut are also calling the latest plan unfair because it gives almost as many bears to the 700 residents of Sanikiluaq as it does to the roughly 3,000 residents of Nunavik’s southeastern Hudson Bay coast.
“We couldn’t just go back to the communities and say there are rules and regulations now,” he said. “We’ve always managed our bear [populations] the best we could, we’ve never over-harvested.”
The exception is last year in Inukjuak, where a faster than usual freeze-up forced polar bears to gather close to the community, Novalinga said.
Local hunters there harvested about 60 bears last season, he said, drawing the concern of Environment Canada and NTI.
Novalinga says he and other wildlife officials will continue to meet to determine if and how Nunavik’s polar bear hunt should be managed.
The hunters and trappers organization continues to consult with Nunavik’s south Hudson coast communities on the polar bear quota, in time for officials’ next meeting in Iqaluit set for Oct. 26.