Media Centre

Inuit and DFO Still Attempting to Reach Consensus on Narwhal Plan

Despite more than a year of meetings and consultation with the public, Inuit and officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are still attempting to reach consensus on a draft integrated fisheries management plan for narwhal management in Nunavut.

The draft management plan was developed by DFO in consultation with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Regional Wildlife Organizations and Hunter and Trappers Organizations in an attempt to establish a total allowable harvest for narwhal that respects Inuit harvesting rights while promoting the sustainable harvesting and trade of narwhal. The proposed management plan will propose a total allowable harvest based on summering stocks, a new tag system for some communities, and new reporting requirements for hunters.

NTI Vice-President James Eetoolook said the fundamental reason for a lack of consensus lies in DFO’s decision to base their proposed management plan on summering stocks of narwhal. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit does not agree with DFO’s assertion that during the summer, narwhal split into distinct groups in different areas, and remain loyal to these groups and areas. DFO’s own science does not confirm this assumption, which is the basis for the entire management plan presented at a public hearing held by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board in Iqaluit this week.

“Inuit see narwhal moving into new and different areas all the time, which is not in line with the science DFO used to develop this plan. For example, this is the second year narwhal have appeared in the waters near Cambridge Bay. It is unclear which summering population these narwhal come from. The Cambridge Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization has now asked for assistance to enable hunters to learn methods to hunt the whales more efficiently,” said Eetoolook.

Despite the lack of consensus on DFO’s plan, NTI has recommended to the NWMB that Nunavut adopt the draft for a trial period of three years and then review its success. This will ensure a new narwhal management plan is in place before the meeting of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in March, 2013, while allowing for revision if necessary following the trial period.

The NWMB will now review the draft plan and make a recommendation to the DFO minister on whether or not it should be accepted or denied. The NWMB is expected to release their decision this fall.