Inuit object to embedded metal tags for narwhal tusks
DFO proposal would permanently identify tusks
Posted: Aug 4, 2012 4:08 PM CT
Last Updated: Aug 4, 2012 4:37 PM CT
Fisheries and Oceans Canada wants to make it easier to trace narwhal tusks sold to international markets, but Inuit in Nunavut who hunt the animals say embedded metal tags could damage the valuable ivory.
The proposal to use fixed metal tags comes two years after the Department of Fisheries and Oceans imposed an international trade ban on narwhal tusks from many Nunavut communities.Fisheries and Oceans Canada wants to make it easier to trace narwhal tusks sold to international markets, but Inuit in Nunavut who hunt the animals say metal tags could damage the valuable ivory. (Associated Press)
That restriction was prompted by DFO concerns that the animals were overhunted. However, a group of Inuit in Nunavut Inuit filed a lawsuit to undo the ban. That led to an out-of-court settlement with the ban being lifted in most communities.
Now DFO is proposing that all narwhal tusks bear a permanent metal tag to ensure they were caught legally.
That idea, however, is being met with resistance as it would mean drilling holes through the valuable tusks.
Glenn Williams, a wildlife policy advisor for Nunavut Tunngavik, said ivory dealers often give tusks an acid bath to whiten them and there is concern about how the metal will affect that.
"That acid bath is not going to work real well with the metal seal put to it, because you're going to get a reaction," he said.
Williams also questioned whether fixed tags are the best way to ensure tusks were harvested legally.
"We feel that the issue of permanently affixing tags to tusks has not been fully thought out," he said. "It hasn't been fully researched."
Selling narwhal ivory brings in much-needed income for Inuit in Nunavut.
The minister of Fisheries and Oceans is expected to make a final decision on the tags this fall.
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