A group of hunters in Clyde River, Nunavut has been selected to take part in the first bowhead whale hunt in over 100 years.
"We have been planning for years and collecting funds for the hunt,” Levi Palituq, the spokesperson for the hunt told the CBC in Inuktitut. “We are now just waiting for DFO to approve our hunt plans.”
Commercial whalers depleted the bowhead whale population to near extinction by the early 1900s. Observing the decline in the population, Inuit hunted whales only sporadically until 1979, when a formal prohibition was put in place by the federal government.
Inuit strongly asserted the right to subsistence harvest of bowhead whales during negotiations over the Nunavut land claim. The first legal bowhead hunt took place in Repulse Bay in 1996.
By 2008, the federal government asserted that bowhead whales were as abundant as they had been before commercial whaling took off.
A limited hunt is now an annual tradition in Nunavut with meat and maktuk, or skin, from the whales being shared among numerous communities.
This year, three Nunavut communities have been given licenses to harvest one of the massive whales.
Chesterfield Inlet and Kugaaruk have also been approved for bowhead hunts this year.
“We are all getting excited as the harvest time is getting closer,” says Barney Aggark, chair of the Chesterfield Inlet HTO. “Even people are just smiling about it, because it will be the first time we will hunt for bowhead.”
Aggark says all they need are floater suits and approval from Fisheries and Oceans to begin the hunt.
There’s still ice in the water near Clyde River, but the hunt should get underway in early August.