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New Inuit-owned fisheries enterprise
Umiat Corporation will maximize opportunities for Inuit

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 28, 2011

PANNIQTUUQ/PANGNIRTUNG - A pair of Baffin Island fishing groups have teamed up to form the first 100 per cent Inuit owned company to manage and operate fishing vessels, licences and quotas.

NNSL photo/graphic

The F/V Stelie II, purchased by Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd., is one of two boats the Umiat Corporation will use to catch turbot. The fishers and the Arctic Fishery Alliance formed the corporation and announced it to the public on Feb. 22. This photo was taken in the fall of 2010. - photo courtesy of the Arctic Fishery Alliance

Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd. of Pangnirtung and the Arctic Fishery Alliance (AFA) joined forces and announced the formation of the Umiat Corporation on Feb. 22 in Iqaluit.

"This is a historic event," said Roger Alivaktuk, chairman of the Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd. board of directors, and now chairman of the corporation.

Umiat will operate two vessels, the F/V Suvak, a 30.49 metre (100 foot) freezer gill net vessel, which the AFA purchased and put into use in 2010.

The other is the F/V Stelie II which Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd. purchased.

Lootie Toomasie, chairman and CEO of the AFA and now president and CEO of Umiat, said the decision to band together was in part because of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board's commercial fishery allocation policy.

Umiat's combined turbot quota is 3,360 metric tons combining fishing quotas from AFA member communities of Qikiqtarjuaq, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay and Resolute Bay. The quota for shrimp is 2,050 metric tons.

Alivaktuk said the commercial turbot fishery was first introduced to Inuit in Pangnirtung in the 1980s. Since then the sector has been developing.

Part of establishing this new corporation is the goal to have more jobs for Inuit.

"We wish that one day all these fishing vessels will be operated by 100 per cent Inuit, but, it will not happen overnight," said Alivaktuk.

During a good season at the Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd.'s plant in Pangnirtung, 100 to 200 people will be employed working as fishers, helpers or fish plant workers.

Toomasie acknowledged the commercial turbot fishery in the territory is still growing.

"Our fishery is very young compared to the rest of Canada and around the world," he said adding "I think we are moving in the right direction."

As for the fish caught, Alivaktuk said some of them will be processed in Pangnirtung.

They will be sold mostly to southern markets in Canada and abroad.

Ultimately, the forming of the corporation means more chance for success when it comes to capitalizing on the potential of the commercial turbot fishery.

"You a have pride to own something," said Peter Kanayuk, member of the board of directors at Cumberland Sound Fisheries Ltd.

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