Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 20, 2012 - 12:13 pm

Voluntary quota of 60 for Hudson Bay polar bear population will remain: GN

“We don’t think there’s an imminent threat to the population”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
For now, the quota of 60 for the polar bear population in Hudson Bay stands. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
For now, the quota of 60 for the polar bear population in Hudson Bay stands. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The voluntary quota agreement for the Hudson Bay polar bear population will be extended for another year.

That’s due to an agreement among the management boards, a result of ongoing consultations with the Hudson Bay communities.

The voluntary harvest is 60 polar bears, which includes 25 for Nunavut, 26 for Quebec, and nine for Cree living in Quebec and Ontario, said Drikus Gissing, the Nunavut government’s director of wildlife management, said in a recent interview.

After discussion about the size of the shared population, Quebec and Nunavut decided a new population estimate would produce a more accurate harvest limit.

A survey done last year by Ontario’s department of natural resources covered only the coastline of Ontario.

But Inuit from Quebec and from Sanikiluaq in Nunavut believe that there are more polar bears than observed. 

During the summer polar bears can be found around Nunavut’s Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay and Quebec’s Ottawa islands on James Bay, Gissing said.

Although talks continue between Quebec and Nunavut, the management boards from both jurisdictions have agreed in principle to the survey, he said.

This allows time for the aerial survey “to get a full picture of what the population estimate is before we set a new total allowable harvest.”

Two years ago the harvest was about 110 polar bears. Nunavut’s harvest limit was 25, but there were no quotas set for Nunavik hunters.

“Suddenly, their harvest increased dramatically,” Gissing said.

However, parties are “working together to make sure that the harvest continues to be sustainable.”

This year, the total harvest was 48, under the quota of 60, so “we don’t think there’s an imminent threat to the population,” Gissing said.

There are still a few hundred polar bears in that population, he added.

“We just aren’t sure of the exact number, when we have an exact number we will set a total allowable harvest,” he said.
All parties – including those from Quebec, Ontario, the Nunavut Marine Board and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board — will develop the management of the Hudson Bay polar bear population.

“There’s a lot of parties involved in this discussion to ensure sustainability of this population,” Gissing said.

But Gissing couldn’t say when a total allowable harvest for the polar bears will be set.

First, biologists will analyze the information from the aerial survey.

Although the aerial method is well-suited to the flat terrain of the western Hudson Bay coastline, and costs less than other survey methods, it “might take time for them to analyze it and write up the report,” Gissing said — possibly as long as two or three months or even up to a year.

“We’re hoping as soon as possible after the surveys obviously,” he said.

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