North

Iqaluit polar bear hunting quota goes up in 2011

Hunters in Iqaluit are gearing up for a bigger-than-usual polar bear hunt starting this weekend, thanks to a larger-than-usual hunting quota for the new year.

Hunters in Iqaluit are gearing up for a bigger-than-usual polar bear hunt starting this weekend, thanks to a larger-than-usual hunting quota for the new year.

The Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization, which represents hunters in Iqaluit, says it has the go-ahead by Nunavut's wildlife management board to hunt up to 41 polar bears, including 32 males and nine females, in the Davis Strait region in 2011.

The new harvest is almost double the normal quota — also known as a total allowable harvest — of 16 males and seven females, for a total of 23 bears. The quota was set to protect the polar bear population.

Organization president Joshua Kango told CBC News that given the higher quota, the polar bear hunting season will start on Saturday, which is a month earlier than the usual start date of Feb. 1.

Officials with Nunavut's Environment Department say they have received no formal confirmation of the raised polar bear quota for 2011.

However, officials said the hunters have accumulated credits for polar bears they did not get in past years.

"When they hit their maximum of seven females, they usually stop the harvest and that has protected their [total allowable harvest] in the following years and led to this excess of credits," Chris Hotson, assistant director of wildlife operations with Nunavut's Environment Department, told CBC News on Thursday.

Inuit have long hunted polar bears for their meat and hides. But under the current quota system, killing more than the allotted number of female polar bears a year can result in penalties for hunters in the next year's hunt.

Hotson said members of the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization have hunted far below the quota set for them, and they're now being recognized for that.

"It speaks to their management efforts at setting their local harvest," Hotson said.

Despite the new quota, Iqaluit hunters may not get to hunt all 41 polar bears in 2011. The Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization says its members must still respect the limit on female polar bears, which has been set at nine.

With files from the CBC's Patricia Bell

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