Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Hunters welcome bear increase

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 10/05) - News of a 115-tag increase in Nunavut's polar bear quota is a welcome surprise to more than one hunters' and trappers' association.

Last week, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board provided the media with the statistics.

Hunters will be able to harvest 115 more polar bears this year than they did in 2004. The new quotas were released last week and came as welcome news to HTAs around Nunavut. - NNSL file photo

When contacting individual HTAs for interviews, Nunavut News/ North was asked to fax, or deliver the numbers to the organizations.

"I didn't know anything about this (final quota number) until you dropped this off to me," said Michael Qappik, president of Iqaluit's Amarok HTA.

The 115-tag increase brings the Nunavut-wide total to 518 polar bears a season, up from 403. A single sport hunt - to which many communities devote about 20 per cent of their quota - can bring upwards of $25,000 into a community.

In Clyde River, Nangmautaq HTA president James Qillaq was happy to hear they will get a 21-tag increase.

"Cool, it's nice to hear that," he said. "I got the letter, but I didn't get the numbers."

HTAs across the territory received a Dec. 22 letter from Environment Minister Olayuk Akesuk saying there would be an increase in "total allowable harvest for most polar bear populations."

That same letter said there would be a few modifications to be discussed.

NWMB spokesperson Jim Noble said he did not know some HTAs were unaware of the final numbers.

"Once those guys get the tags, they know the message is out," he said.

Akesuk's letter says the additional tags will be shipped out by Jan. 14, 2005.

The increase comes at a time when many elders - especially in the Baffin Bay and Davis Strait regions - have voiced concerns over the dangerous number of polar bears around their communities.

The last scientific study concerning the polar bear population was "quite some time ago," according to Noble, and the numbers released Jan. 7 are based mostly on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or Inuit traditional knowledge.

The quota changes will also see three bears harvested from the M'Clintock Channel population. A moratorium on hunting has been in place since 2002. This year, Gjoa Haven hunters will get to harvest two bears and Cambridge Bay hunters will get one tag. Next year, Cambridge Bay will get two and Gjoa Haven one.

As well, "eight floating tags" are available for hunting bears from the Foxe Basin population.