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Fisheries reps talk to hunters about narwhal export permits

Jeanne Gagnon and Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 6, 2011

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans visited 10 communities affected by a ban on export permits for narwhal tusks at the end of last month in an attempt to explain its decision to hunters.

The federal government announced last December it will only issue export permits under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for narwhal tusks harvested from Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Iglulik and Pond Inlet.

DFO was travelling to Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, Resolute, Iglulik, Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit, to explain its decision and its concerns with the current narwhal quota.

Resolute HTO chairman Philip Manik said about 25 people attended the three-hour meeting there on May 29, where concerns on how the ban will affect the hunting of narwhal were raised as was the mammal's population. He added DFO told them to expect more meetings.

"It went back and forth for a while but towards the end, there was a better understanding with each other I suppose," he said.

Hall Beach HTO chairman Enoki Irqittuq and other members travelled to Iglulik for the meeting on May 30 where he said he raised concerns about the narwhal quotas, a number he said was established without prior community consultations. He added the meeting was "good."

"I don't know if we're going to increase or decrease narwhal quotas," he said. "We're going to work together, the Fisheries and Oceans (and) the HTO in the near future."

Narwhal tags have been distributed in Arctic Bay but the members of the hunter and trappers organization are not sure how their members are going to make money if they can't sell the tusks.

"We're in a tough situation right now," said Jobie Attitaq, chairman of the Ikajutit Hunters and Trappers Organization.

Attitaq said he told members at a public meeting on May 17 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has called the Northern store in the community and told them not to buy any narwhal tusks.

Depending on the length of the tusk the price can vary from $100 to $200 per foot.

The HTO was allotted 130 narwhal tags as in 2010.

The tags will be split between the spring and summer hunts.

Hunters on snowmobiles this spring will be allowed to catch two narwhals at a time.

Once there is open water, hunters will go out by boat and the limit of narwhals caught will depend on the size of the boat.

"We don't want to waste any of the meat as it is shared with the community," Attitaq said.