Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 12, 2012 - 2:52 pm

Nunavut Inuit will gain more control over beluga, narwhal, walrus harvest: wildlife board

“This is the most important decision that the NWMB will have made to date”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
NTI wildlife advisor Glenn Williams speaks during the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board hearing on basic needs levels for beluga, narwhal and walrus in Nunavut waters. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
NTI wildlife advisor Glenn Williams speaks during the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board hearing on basic needs levels for beluga, narwhal and walrus in Nunavut waters. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

Inuit will gain more control over how beluga, walrus and narwhal are harvested, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board heard Sept. 12, as two days of hearings wrapped up at the Hotel Arctic in Iqaluit.

The basic needs levels for these animals will likely be the same as their total allowable harvest.

At the Sept. 11 hearing session, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. had argued that Inuit should exercise a right of first access for the harvest of beluga, walrus and narwhal, as set out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

“This is the most important decision that the NWMB will have made to date, in its history of deciding harvesting issues with respect to Inuit,” the lawyer for the board, Michael d’Eca said.

This decision will entail a greater role of hunters and trappers organizations and regional wildlife boards, because they will decide how much communities can harvest and when to hold back tags.

“We’re entering a new stage of the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement,” d’Eca said.

The NWMB wasn’t sure how things would work out, but “there is a consensus around this table,” d’Eca said.

Whatever the total allowable harvest set by the NWMB — and even if this goes higher or lower over time— the basic needs level will always equal that, he said.

This means the entire harvest of beluga, walrus and narwhal goes to Inuit, who can assign this to sporting hunts or to another purpose, d’Eca told the board.

“We do have a consensus among parties, [but] its still up to the NWMB to go back and make its decision and send that to the minister,” he said.

Eventually, the final decision will be made public, and then everyone will know about it, d’Eca said.

NTI wildlife advisor Glenn Williams agreed that this will be one of the most important decisions that the board has made because “the question that you’re going to answer now is a question that hasn’t been answered for nearly 40 years.”

During the two-day NWMB hearing, there was no challenge to NTI’s position that Inuit are the primary harvesters of beluga, narwhal and walrus.

Raymond Ningeocheak, from the Kivalliq region said that the consensus that emerged among those at the hearing was good.

“We’re not able to satisfy everybody and make decisions to everybody’s wish,” he said,  although the “TAH [total allowable harvest]will increase and decrease, that’s never going to stop.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is prepared to move forward with Nunavut basic needs being equal to total allowable harvest, as long as harvesting is done in a sustainable way.

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