Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says it will buy 1,000 kilograms of Arctic char from Qikiqtarjuaq, without asking the federal government for permission, to assert Inuit fishing rights.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada requires a licence when that much fish is harvested but NTI vice-president James Eetoolook says that rule shouldn't apply to beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
Eetoolook says the agreement grants Inuit harvesting rights, which include fishing without obtaining a licence, when there are no conservation concerns, to meet their needs. He says this includes selling the fish commercially.
"There are a lot of Inuit who are not employed but they are good fishermen and good hunters and it's about time we start practising what we agreed to," he says.
"So the government has to do that as well. They agreed to the land claims agreement way back in 1993."
The fish is being harvested from Qammartalik Cove, where NTI says there is no total allowable harvest or conservation concerns. NTI says it will be a one-time purchase.
Harry Alookie, chair of the Nattivak Hunters and Trappers Association in Qikiqtarjuaq says big contract purchases, like the one NTI is making, can go a long way.
"There is hardly work up here and money is really a big thing up here, especially for the unemployed," he said.
NTI said it will give some of the fish away to assist with food security and will sell some of the fish to a variety of buyers.
NTI says it is also continuing to work on the development of Nunavut fisheries regulations with Nunavut MP and federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo.