North·New

Feds seek resolution to narwhal tusk trade ban

Ottawa wants to resolve a simmering dispute with Nunavut communities over the export of Narwhal ivory, the federal fisheries minister said, during an annual meeting in Iqaluit this week.

Ottawa wants to resolve a simmering dispute with Nunavut communities over the export of Narwhal ivory, the federal fisheries minister said, during an annual meeting in Iqaluit this week.

Keith Ashfield, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said the restrictions on the international export of narwhal tusks and related from products from 17 communities was partly imposed due to international concern.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans had said narwhal in certain Nunavut communities were being overhunted.

"Hopefully we can come to some sort of resolution on this issue," Ashfield said during the meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquacultures Ministers.

"This is something that is being driven by other organizations, and hopefully we can come to some common ground on this." 

Court challenge nixed

The federal government is commited to finding a solution that works for both sides, Ashfield said.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which advocates for the territory's Inuit, wanted to challenge the ban in court, but stepped back from legal action in June.

The two-day session that brought fisheries officials from across Canada to Iqaluit focused on Canada's place in the global seafood market and environmental concerns.

Nunavut's environment minister, Daniel Shewchuk, also used the opportunity to press for a greater share of fish stocks off the territory's coast.

Shewchuk said he took time to ask the minister about greater access to turbot quotas in Nunavut waters.

Nunavut turbot quota increases possible

"He is aware that it is very important that we get our share, and be comparable to other jurisdictions," Shewchuk said.

Nunavut fishermen control 100 per cent of the turbot fishery in North Baffin, but off the southern half of Baffin Island, only 41 per cent of the catch is allotted to Nunavummiut.

It was even less two years ago, until Ottawa increased Nunavut's share.

Ashfield said on Thursday that further increases were possible.

But he would not commit to transferring part of existing quotas allotted to other provinces in that area to Nunavut.

"If there are further increases in quota, we'll look very favourably upon Nunavut. Obviously it's very important for the growth of the fishery in this region."

Ashfield says support for Nunavut's fishery fits with the Conservative plan for sovereignty in the Arctic.