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Baffin Bay polar bear quota cut

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 8, 2010

IQALUIT - The Government of Nunavut is reducing the number of Baffin Bay polar bears that can be hunted starting this year.

Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk announced Friday the hunting quota or total allowable harvest will be reduced by 10 bears per year for the next four years.

The current quota of 105 bears will drop to 65 bears in four years.

"It is time to take action to ensure the sustainability of the population into the future," said Shewchuk.

The decision is similar to the recommendation made by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB). The board recommended the quota should be lowered by the same number of bears starting in 2011.

"The change was put into place in 2010 due to the significant conservation concern," said Shewchuk.

Shewchuk said he knows communities in the Baffin region are not going to be happy about the decision but said all stakeholders were involved and that the decision is based off a recommendation of the NWMB.

In addition to lowering the polar bear quota, the Department of Environment has started a research project involving communities in hopes of a new population estimate of Baffin Bay polar bears by 2014.

Programs will be introduced to assist hunters and community members in the prevention of polar bear damage, said Shewchuk, adding that if there is damage that compensation will be made available.

In 2004, the harvest quota was increased from 64 bears to 105 bears. Shewchuk said at that time the government did not have the figures from the Greenland harvest which turned out to be higher than thought.

"We will work with hunters and educate communities on why we are doing what we are doing but if there is an illegal overharvest then I will be mandated to enforce the wildlife act," he said.

Environment Canada banned the export of parts from Baffin Bay polar bears Jan. 1 due to concerns of overharvesting, but indicated it would reconsider its decision if Nunavut reduced the population's hunting quota.

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