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The Genny and Doug crew from Qikiqtarjuaq are fishing in southern waters under an Inuit-owned licence. This is a first. From left are crew members Jamie Audlakiak, Bobby Arnaquq and Joanie Ahmie Nookiguak. - photo courtesy of Derek Frampton

Making history on the high seas

Jillian Dickens
Northern News Services

Broughton Island (Dec 05/05) - The Masiliit fishing company, based in Qikiqtarjuaq, is making history. For the first time Inuit fishermen are in southern waters on an Inuit-owned boat with an Inuit-owned licence.

Last January, Masiliit purchased the Genny and Doug - a 100-foot fishing vessel bought in Newfoundland. With the boat comes the licence, and with the licence comes upwards of 50 tonnes of Atlantic halibut quota from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

On board are Qikiqtarjuaq crew members Jamie Audlakiak, Bobby Arnaquq and Joanie Ahmie Nookiguak, along with 11 southern crew members.

Masiliit's secretary treasurer, Sam Nuqingaq, says this bit of southern quota doesn't extend the fishing season by much, but every little bit of employment helps.

"We have a very high unemployment rate here and we do not have any benefits that came from decentralization so we have suffered," said Nuqingaq.

Qikiqtarjuaq broke away from the Baffin Fisheries Coalition last year and started their own fishing company to provide employment in the community.

With the BFC, says Nuqingaq, approximately one employee every two months from the community accessed direct fishing employment, and then they would switch with another person from the community.

Now, up to four community members at a time can go out, said Nuqingaq.

Although the Inuit crew members on the Genny and Doug are low-ranked deckhands, the hope is to beef up Inuit training so they can eventually fill higher ranked positions like that of the engineer, first mate or captain.

"We want people from our community to work as bosses or leaders on board," said Nuqingaq.