Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 14, 2012 - 1:20 pm

Two Nunavut communities savour bowhead muktuk

Successful hunts in Repulse Bay, Arctic Bay

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Bowhead whale muktuk is melting in the mouths of people in Repulse Bay and Arctic Bay where hunters recently landed bowhead whales. (FILE PHOTO)
Bowhead whale muktuk is melting in the mouths of people in Repulse Bay and Arctic Bay where hunters recently landed bowhead whales. (FILE PHOTO)

People in Repulse Bay won’t go hungry for the next little while.

That’s because everyone in the Kivalliq community is celebrating the catch of a bowhead whale that was butchered and divided up Aug. 13.

Michael Akkuardjuk, chairperson of the Repulse Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization, said that the hunt was successful, with a whale, just short of nine metres, caught about 20 kilometres from the community of 750.

“It was a good size for the community of Repulse Bay,” he said.

Four boats went out Aug. 13, with four hunters on each boat. The whale was caught around 3 p.m. that day.

The hunters had first headed out Aug. 10 at about 10 a.m. having obtained a license from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Aug. 8.

But the first bowhead whale they saw was too small, and hard to find, Akkuardjuk said.

But the hunters did see more bowheads. On the next day, it was windy and the weather wasn’t co-operating so they stayed home, he said.

After that, the hunters went out again around early in the morning on Aug. 13 and spotted a bowhead, but lost sight of it.

By around 3 p.m. they spotted another whale, which they were able to harpoon and keep, thanks to a strong 600-foot rope. 

After getting the whale to shore in Repulse Bay, people from the community came down to the area where other whales have been butchered, to watch and help.

Ten or 11 people worked to remove all the muktuk, the skin and blubber, off the whale in a little over an hour, Akkuardjuk said.

“Sometime today everything is going to be done,” he said.

Repulse Bay has previously seen successful bowhead hunts in 1996, 2005 and 2010 — but people are still overjoyed by the recent catch.

“Everybody was happy about it, everybody,” Akkuardjuk said. “It was as good hunt, successful, the hunters are all okay.”

Arctic Bay hunters also took a nine-metre bowhead this past weekend near Admiralty Inlet.

Until recently, DFO scientists claimed there were only several hundred bowhead whales in eastern Arctic waters, preventing their harvest in Nunavut.

Estimates of the bowhead population jumped from 345 in 2000 to about 3,000 in 2003, then to 7,309 in 2007, and in 2008 to 14,400, with an outside estimate of up to about 43.000.

In 2009, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board established a quota, or a total allowable take, of three whales per year over three years.

That means that each of Nunavut’s three regions has been able to harvest a whale in recent years.

The Kitikmeot community of Taloyoak also plans to hunt a bowhead whale this month.

Last August, for the first time in a century, Iqaluit hunters landed a bowhead, a 14-metre-long whale,  weighing in at more than 70 tonnes.

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