File photo
Narwhals breach ice in Canadian Arctic.

Summer Narwhal Hunt Confirmed for 2013

June 14, 2013

The government of Canada has confirmed that a narwhal hunt will take place this summer.

"We are pleased to confirm that the majority of Inuit hunters will be able to continue to sell narwhal by-products resulting from their subsistence hunt on international markets,” read a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada on June 14. “This decision was made based on the best available scientific information and in consultation with partners including Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Government of Nunavut, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, hunters and trappers organizations, and northern communities to ensure the long-term sustainability of the traditional narwhal hunt.”

The consultation was done in recognition of “the importance of the traditional narwhal hunt to many Nunavut communities,” said the statement released jointly by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield, Environment Minister Peter Kent and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who also serves as minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development and is the Member of Parliament for Nunavut.

After evaluating the narwhal hunt for its impact on the endangered species, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced on June 14 that Inuit of Nunavut could continue harvesting the animals and selling their byproducts internationally. The agency conducted its evaluation in light of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which met in May. (Related: International Wildlife Trade Group Votes to Protect Hundreds of Species)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada “concluded that the planned harvest in 2013 will not be detrimental to the species’ survival in the wild,” the government said.

The Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for narwhal, agreed upon in January by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and Ashfield, formed part of the basis for the summer-harvest limits calculation. That plan took two years to build.

“At times, the development of the plan was very difficult, but in the end, Inuit now have a management plan in place that we feel meets our needs and respects our harvesting rights,” said James Eetoolook, Acting President of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., in a statement after the management plan was announced in January. (Related: Canada Feds Ban Narwhal Tusk Exports)

Under the management plan, the narwhal limit for the community of Grise Fiord harvesting from Jones Sound was raised from 20 to 50, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said.

Besides the Narwhal Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, the government also examined scientific information as well as Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge that had been published.

“In particular, by-products of narwhal from the summering stocks of Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound, East Baffin Island, and Northern Hudson Bay can be exported again this year,” the government’s statement said.

The numbers for some areas of Parry Channel, Jones Sound and Smith Sound (the community of Grise Fiord) still need to be fine-tuned, the statement said, and a broad survey to do so will be conducted this summer.

“This will provide comprehensive advice on abundance, distribution and sustainable harvest levels of Canadian narwhal populations for the future as a decision could not be reached this year due to lack of scientific information,” the statement concluded. “We will continue building collaborative relationships to reflect our common objective —a sustainable narwhal harvest that will maximize the benefits to Inuit harvesters today and into the future.”