Sanikiluaq mulls reviving eiderdown factory

Once a commercial source of the world's warmest down, the Nunavut hamlet of Sanikiluaq is investigating whether it could revive its community-based eiderdown factory that closed in 2005.

About 50 people showed up to a community meeting in Sanikiluaq to talk about the possibility of reviving the community’s eiderdown factory.

Eiderdown is considered one of the best natural insulations in the world. The fluffy down is what allows eider ducks to overwinter in the Belcher Islands, diving through polynyas and ice waters for food.

A community-based factory opened in the community in 1986. In 2005, it closed as both demand, and the population of eider ducks, began to decline. That may have changed.

"The interest in the re-start of this is extremely high,” says Darryl Dibblee, the hamlet’s interim senior administrative officer. “The population of the eider ducks has come back, and there certainly appears to be a market for this.”

Eider ducks have long been a source of food and clothing on the Belcher Islands. The unique relationship between eider ducks and local people has been documented in a feature-length film, People of a Feather.

Aarluk Consulting has been hired to determine what quantity of down would be necessary to make the project economically feasible. A report is expected to be complete later this month.

“Our goal, if it’s feasible, would be to get any work that’s necessary in the winter months, then have it ready for operation and get some of the people involved prior back in employment and ready for collecting down in the spring of 2014.”

Dibblee says a factory would require down collectors, seamstresses, and managers. “We may be up to eight or 10 people, and in a community of 800, that’s significant.”

The goal would be to make a limited number of high end luxury goods: likely duvets and possibly vests. “We don’t have the quantities to go out there and compete against Canada Goose so we have to look at what are the products that can be supported,” Dibblee says.

Joe Arragutainaq is the mayor of Sanikiluaq.

In Inuktitut, he said there's definitely no shortage of eiderdown in the community, and residents would be very happy if the plant opened again.

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