Beluga hunting season opens in Nunavik

But only the Hudson Strait is open to hunters for now


The open water in the lower right of this photo, taken near the Hudson Strait community of Quaqtaq, was teeming with belugas on June 2. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The open water in the lower right of this photo, taken near the Hudson Strait community of Quaqtaq, was teeming with belugas on June 2. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Belugas are already beginning to stream through Nunavik’s Hudson Strait.

And since June 1, hunters have had the right to hunt up to 190 belugas there until Aug. 31 — an increase in the quota which was fixed at 170 for that same period in 2010.

However, hunters along the Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay must wait longer to learn when they can start beluga hunting and how many belugas they can hunt there or around Long Island and in James Bay.

A June 1 news release from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada says there’s delay in announcing the beluga hunt in these zones because “the decisional process outlined under the Nunavik Land Claims Agreement is not yet complete.”

For this reason, no quota or “total allowable take” has been fixed yet, although the DFO and Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board agreed to open the Hudson Strait “to allow hunters from Nunavik to practice their traditional harvesting activity and to ensure the conservation of the Eastern Hudson Bay beluga population.”

The wildlife board is expected to set community quotas, although in 2011 the areas around the Nottingham, Salisbury and Ottawa islands will remain closed as well as the Mucalic, Nastapoka and Little Whale River estuaries, the news release said.

Most of last year’s take was supposed to come from the Hudson Strait during the period from June 1 to Aug. 31.

Of the quota of 170 for that period, hunters took 138, according to 2010 DFO statistics.

During the fall hunt from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, hunters exceeded the Hudson Strait quota of 46 by 15 belugas for a total take of 61 belugas.

In the Ungava Bay, where the 2010 quota was fixed at only nine belugas due to concern over the population’s numbers, hunters took 15 belugas.

The 2010 management plan stated that if the quota was exceeded, that this year’s take would be reduced.

Nunavik’s hunters and trappers association, in collaboration with the DFO, worked on that plan before sending it to the Nunavik Marine Regional Wildlife Board.

This board, created by the Nunavut Inuit Land Claims Agreement, then made recommendations and passed on the final version to the DFO minister.

The board’s members — three appointed by Makivik, two by the federal government, one by the Government of Nunavut— manage a $5-million research fund. It also can establish quotas, identify wildlife management zones and approve designations for endangered species.

The federal government then accepts, varies or rejects the decisions of the board.

But if changed or rejected, Ottawa must provide reasons and give the board another opportunity to present its arguments — this may explain why the release of the 2011 plan has been delayed.

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