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More turbot

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Pangnirtung (May 02/05) - Ice fishermen in Panniqtuuq received an increase in turbot allocation during a visit by Fisheries and Ocean Minister Geoff Regan last week, but without boats, they'll have trouble taking advantage of it.

"For the future, this is going to be good," said Joopa Sowdluapik, chair of Cumberland Sound Fisheries.

The new management zone gives ice fishermen an allotment of 500 tonnes, compared to past years where only 45 tonnes were made available.

When the old allotment was exceeded, that didn't stop ice fishermen from catching more - the allotment of an adjacent offshore fishing area, harvested by Cumberland Sound Fisheries, would be transferred to them.

For this reason, Sowdluapik said "It's not new news."

With the ice in Cumberland Sound already broken up, they now have a surplus they'd like to shift back offshore.

"We want it the other way now."

About 50 fishermen are employed during a busy winter season, each with their own helper.

A good draw like three years ago brought in half a million dollars for Inuit fishermen, Sowdluapik said.

The fish are often processed at Pangnirtung Fisheries, providing another revenue source for the community.

Offshore vessels aren't allowed to fish inside Cumberland sound. Smaller vessels are needed for fishermen to take advantage of the allotment during summer months.

Fishermen from Panniqtuuq will look at several fishing vessels at the upcoming trade show in Iqaluit and hope to secure funding from federal sources like the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation and the National Research Council.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Paul Kaludjak said the current system of allocating fish quotas discriminates against Inuit.

While other jurisdictions possess 85-100 per cent of their total allowable catch for their adjacent waters, he said Inuit receive just half. NTI has asked for a significant increase for two years, without much to show. "We explained things need to improve," he said.

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement provides a legal basis for increased fish quotas, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he said. "We have rights to those areas."

Territorial politicians were upbeat about the recent visit by Regan.

"I believe this will help us out in the long run," said fisheries minister Olayuk Akesuk.

However, he said more infrastructure is needed to establish a strong fishing industry in Nunavut and agreed that Nunavummiut need higher allotments like other jurisdictions.

"We want to be treated the same."