Hunters in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, celebrated after catching 10 narwhals – a rare occurrence in the western Arctic.

The community was happy with the sudden appearance of the whales. It’s only the second time narwhals have been spotted in the area.

"Then one afternoon after lunch, the whole bay was covered with whales coming in," said James Panioyak, the chair of the Cambridge Bay Hunters and Trappers Association.

Whales were spotted near the community last year as well. At that time, it was illegal to hunt the animals without permission from the territorial government.

This year, the hamlet applied for hunting tags and got five, which quickly ran out. Neighbouring communities chipped in their tags.

"Gjoa Haven kindly stepped up because they didn't have any whales as of yet, and gave us five to use here," said Panioyak.

Narwhals will be eaten the same as beluga – the hunters will cut up the blubber and the meat and share it in the community.

Presence of narwhals puzzling to scientist

A leading Canadian biologist said he doesn’t know why the animals are so far off their migratory pattern. Joe Justice, a biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,  said the whales are travelling further west than usual.

"We certainly know that marine animals are known to extend their range for a variety of reasons, such as going after food, avoiding predators or for other changes in their habitat. They're very intelligent so they'll adapt to changes within their environment as is necessary," he said.

A total of 10 whales were harvested in Cambridge Bay.