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Communities target commercial fisheries
Inuit rights and aquatic monitoring program involved in process

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, May 30, 2016

Efforts are underway to expand underdeveloped economic opportunities and sort through a contentious process for commercial fishing in Nunavut communities.

NNSL photo/graphic

Alex Flaherty, an aquatic science research assistant with the Government of Nunavut's Department of Environment, runs N-CAMP - the Nunavut Community Aquatic Monitoring Program. - photo courtesy Cayla Chenier

While the Government of Nunavut runs a training program to help communities follow Fisheries and Oceans Canada protocol, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is taking steps to unravel that protocol, citing the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Aside from Cambridge Bay and Pangnirtung, which have well-developed fisheries, other communities lag behind, said Alex Flaherty, an aquatic science research assistant with the Government of Nunavut's Department of Environment.

"There's a lot of fish in Nunavut," he said.

Flaherty runs N-CAMP - the Nunavut Community Aquatic Monitoring Program. The aim of the program is to support more communities with an interest in developing commercial fisheries or monitoring their aquatic resources.

"It's community-based training and it teaches people everything they need to know to sample and collect data in order to develop commercial fisheries," said Flaherty. "People of Nunavut need the training."

Flaherty does that training in communities that have an interest in applying for an exploratory licence from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"With our help they can accomplish that," said Flaherty, who conducts one or two camps a year and has been for three years. The largest was in Pond Inlet, with 20 participants.

"They're in the process of getting an exploratory licence," he said.

That community has been working on developing a turbot fishery. In Iglulik and Coral Harbour, there's been an interest in developing a char fishery.

Most recently, a camp was held in Iqaluit April 29 to May 3, where there is also an interest in a char fishery.

There are three phases to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans licencing process before a commercial fishery can become a reality. Flaherty helps out in the feasibility phase. Next comes the exploratory phase, which is done over five years, after which the collected data is assessed to determine if a commercial fishery can move forward.

NTI first raised the issue of Inuit fishing rights last September at a Nunavut Wildlife Management Board meeting.

However, in March, NTI sent out a strong message when vice-president James Eetoolook announced that it had agreed to purchase 1,000 kilograms of Arctic char from the Nattivak Hunters and Trappers Organization in Qikiqtarjuaq.

The fish is being harvested from Qammartalik Cove, where there is no total allowable harvest or conservation concerns, according to the NTI news release.

"Inuit have fundamental harvesting rights in the Nunavut Agreement, which include fishing without first obtaining any sort of licence, when there are no conservation concerns, to meet our needs. This includes the right to dispose of the fish for commercial purposes," stated Eetoolook.

The news release further states NTI rejects all suggestions that Inuit should bend to "officials in Nunavut's current fishery management regime" and its requirements for commercial fisheries, such as "an exploratory licence, an approved management plan or a provisionally defined fishery."

"NTI takes its role of protecting fundamental Inuit harvesting rights very seriously. After careful consideration, and to ensure those rights are not further ignored or diminished, NTI chose to exercise those harvesting rights on behalf of Inuit," stated Eetoolook.

NTI did not respond to requests for an interview, or to say whether it had purchased the fish from Qikiqtarjuaq.

Nunavut News/North also requested an update on NTI's work on developing Nunavut fisheries regulations with Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo, the Nunavut MP, as was noted in the news release but did not receive a reply.

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