Nunavik org to host public hearings on southern Hudson Bay polar bear harvest
February meeting third attempt since 2011
Plans to host public hearings on Nunavik’s southern Hudson Bay polar bear quota are underway for the third time since 2011.
Governments and organizations in Nunavut and Quebec have until Jan. 27 to send their submissions — information that will help the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board decide how many polar bears the region should harvest annually from that sub-population.
“Whether or not we’ll be able to make a decision before this winter season is up, we’re not sure at this point,” said Mark O’Connor, the board’s director of wildlife management. “But it’s more of a long-term decision.”
Since the federal environment department requested the board come up with a new quota for the sub-population in 2011, the hearings, set to take place in Inukjuak, have twice been postponed.
That’s because the board wanted to wait for the results of aerial surveys carried out in 2011 and 2012; the first by the Ontario ministry of natural resources and the second by the governments of Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut.
The survey, carried out in late summer and early fall during 2011 and 2012, tracked bears by helicopter in eastern and southern Hudson Bay, James Bay and across large expanses of the Ontario and Quebec coastline.
The survey pegged the area’s polar bear population at 951, suggesting the population hasn’t changed since the mid-1980s and is generally in good health.
But because of multiple inventory techniques used in surveying, and previous survey data showing declines in body condition and survival rates, the study’s authors also suggested a “cautious management approach is warranted.”
Since 2011, the combined voluntary quota for the southern Hudson Bay polar bear population is 60. Twenty-six of those are allocated to Nunavik and 25 to Nunavut’s only southern Hudson Bay community, Sanikiluaq.
The remainder go to Cree communities.
While the Makivik Corp. signed off on the voluntary quota, Nunavik hunters said the decision was unfair, because the region has never before had strict regulations put on its polar bear hunt.
But some organizations said there is a greater need than ever for Nunavik to tighten its harvest quotas, after about 60 polar bears alone were hunted in Inukjuak in early 2011.
Under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, there is no management plan — but a loose quota of roughly 60 bears for Cree and Inuit to harvest.
That may change in the coming months.
The NMRWB’s public hearings will be held Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 in Inukjuak.
Those groups can also request to become parties to the hearings, which would give them a seat at the table rather than public observer status.
“Following the hearings, we’ll digest everything,” O’Connor said. “Once we make a decision, we’ll forward onto (the federal environment minister) and wait on the 60-day approval process.”