Nunavut whalers rejoice over successful bowhead whale hunt
Repulse Bay hunters land huge bowhead whale Aug. 31
Repulse Bay is ready to celebrate a successful bowhead whale hunt. A hunting party from the community finally caught a whale measuring 51 feet and seven inches long (15.72 metres) on Aug. 31, after 10 days of repeated efforts in shifty weather.
Whalers started butchering the bowhead Sept. 1 on an island 40 kilometres from the community, said May-Lain Siusangnark, manager of the Repulse Bay Hunters and Trappers Association.
Unfavourable weather has delayed butchering and transport of the whale meat, maktaaq and bones since then, Siusangnark said Sept. 3.
“They are trying to flense it all, to get everything they can,” she said.
Whalers were not permitted by the Government of Nunavut to bring the carcass into the community for flensing, Siusangnark said.
That’s because officials believed it could attract polar bears into the community.
For that reason, all butchering must take place at the whale’s current location, a site 25 miles (40 km) from the community, on an island in the bay that takes up to one hour to reach by motor boat, she said.
Whalers travel daily, weather permitting, between the community and the island to complete the job and allow them to bring the animal parts back to the community.
This year’s bowhead whale hunt is Repulse Bay’s fifth since 1996, when the Fisheries and Oceans minister first approved the harvest of one bowhead for the Nunavut Settlement Area.
That quota was increased to three bowhead whales in 2009, with three Nunavut communities, one per region, receiving permits to hunt single bowhead whales since then.
Repulse Bay also harvested bowheads in 2005, 2010 and 2012,Their biggest catch was in 2010 when the community harvested a bowhead whale almost 53 feet and 10 inches long (16.4 metres).
The community caught a 26 foot-six-inch (8.1 metre) bowhead whale last year.
The hunt began Aug. 21, said Siusangnark, when a hunting party of 19 whalers in five boats set out in search of a bowhead.
To qualify for harvest, the bowhead whale was to be an adult measuring no less than 25 feet (7.6 metres) in length. No whales were sighted until the party’s second outing, according to the HTO manager.
That’s when they saw nine bowheads.
Whalers spotted the ideal animal on their fourth outing, on Aug. 31. The first harpoon hit the 51-foot (15.5 metres) bowhead at 5:45 p.m., said Siusangnark. Hunters killed the animal and beached it by midnight that day.
The whale had sunk underwater during the effort, so the whaling party “had to pull it more, and they had to tow it for a couple of hours to get it to the land,” she said.
David Tuktudjuk headed up this year’s hunt as captain of the whaling party, and Michel Akkuarjuk, chairman of the HTO, served as co-captain.
The whalers hoped to complete flensing activities on Sept. 3, and awaited ideal weather to transport all the meat, maktaaq and bones back to the community.
Their successful hunt follows that of hunters in Pangnirtung Aug. 9.