The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has partially lifted its international trade restrictions on narwhal tusks.

The department imposed the restriction on 17 communities in Nunavut one year ago. For months now, the federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, an Inuit land claim organization, have been working on a plan to help settle the dispute.

The decision is based on some new information about narwhal populations, which was gathered over the past year.

Nunavut Tunngavik officials are applauding the move.


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has partially lifted trade restrictions on narwhal tusks after new aerial research was done. (NOAA/Getty Images)

"We're hopeful, that you know, they'll do whatever they need to do and analyze it and come up with an answer, a positive answer, and then consult with the communities," said Gabriel Nirlungayik, the wildlife director for the organization.

The organization’s vice-president, James Eetoolook, said in a release that the original decision to impose the ban was based on questionable scientific data done from aerial surveys in 2003. He added the reversal of the decision was based on new aerial surveys done in Admiralty Inlet near Arctic Bay, Nunavut, in 2010.

Nunavut Tunngavik officials say they are working with the department on a management plan for narwhals. That plan will be presented in 2013 at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The communities now able to trade internationally include Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq, Pangnirtung and Iqaluit.

Those still restricted from trade include the Kivalliq region communities and Kimmirut, Sanikiluaq and Grise Fiord.

Nunavut Tunngavik originally launched legal action following the ban, saying the government did not adequately consult with Inuit before imposing the ban. The organization dropped the action when the department agreed to work with Inuit on decisions affecting narwhal trade and management.