The hunt is on
NWMB gives go ahead for bowhead whale hunt

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Coral Harbour ( May 31/00) - Either this summer or next, hunters in Coral Harbour will be hauling in more than their usual catch.

According to Ben Kovic, chair of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Kivalliq community has been given permission to harvest one bowhead whale in 2000 or 2001.

Approved by the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the announcement marks the third time Inuit have been given permission to harvest a bowhead whale since the Nunavut Land Claim was signed.

The mammal will be taken from the Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin population of bowhead whales, which DFO said was capable of sustaining itself if one whale was taken every two or three years.

Kovic said the board's role now -- in conjunction with DFO -- is to review the hunt plan that will be developed by a committee chosen by the members.

The hunt plan includes items like what kind of weapon will be used to kill the whale, how it will be hauled to shore, how many vessels will be allowed to hunt the whale, who the captain and crew will be, and how the animal will be butchered.

Kovic said the success of the hunt plan determines how successful the harvest will be.

"Once we put together a good plan, it can work. That's what we're going to do in Coral Harbour," said Kovic, noting how well the second hunt in Cumberland Sound in 1998 went compared to the first hunt in Repulse Bay in 1996.

"We've learned from that," said Kovic.

"It's just like when you first tried bowling. You probably won't hit the pins. It's the same thing. We haven't done this in years and everybody got excited," he said.

Fine-tuning their bowhead whale hunting skills and stronger planning has also meant that the Inuit whalers have been able to significantly pare down their costs from one hunt to the next.

He said the harvest in Repulse Bay cost more than $150,000 and the second one outside Pangnirtung came in at $50,000. With proper planning and lots of advance organization, he said they should be able to ensure costs are kept at a minimum.

But the board must approve the hunt plan before the harvest proceeds, and that means the committee may not be able to proceed until 2001.

The next step is for the community to establish the committee.