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Killing Pond Inlet narwhals 'humane harvest': DFO

As hunters in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, continue to cull about 200 narwhals trapped in the sea ice, federal officials say it's the most humane way to deal with the whales.

As hunters in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, continue to cull about 200 narwhals trapped in the sea ice, federal officials say it's the most humane way to deal with the whales.

Several narwhals have been killed since residents found the whales near the northern Baffin Island community on Nov. 15, trapped in shrinking areas of open water surrounded by ice.

Federal officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is monitoring the situation, said the narwhal cull seems to be the most humane way to deal with the trapped animals.

Local elders advised hunters to kill the narwhals soon as they would drown as the ice grows around them.

"If it's possible to help the whales to get out of the predicament they're in, we'd try that. But apparently the floe edge is so far away that the whales are very unlikely to be able to escape," department official Keith Pelley told CBC News.

"So basically we're calling it a humane harvest of the whales so that they won't suffer and die."

Quota not affected

Hunters will not exceed their narwhal hunting limits for this year and next year because of the cull, given the special circumstances surrounding the situation, Pelley added.

Jayko Allooloo, chairman of the Mittimatalik hunters and trappers organization in Pond Inlet, told CBC News that the cull is going smoothly and people have been taking turns hunting the whales over the last few days.

Members of the hunters and trappers organization decided late last week to keep hunting until all the narwhals have been killed, Allooloo said in Inuktitut.

Pelley said it would be more sensible to harvest all the whales than it would be to deploy a Canadian Coast Guard ship to Pond Inlet to break up the sea ice and free the whales.

"Seeing that there's not a conservation concern with these whales being harvested, we have not deployed a coast guard ship," Pelley said, adding that a ship would have to be sent up from southern Canada.

"We don't see any economical reason or any reason why the boat or ship should go there to cut out these whales."

While this week's cull will not affect narwhal hunting quotas in Pond Inlet, Pelley said hunters will still have to attach hunting tags to every whale they kill, to monitor the number of whales taken.

Allooloo said hunters won't say how many whales have been harvested until the cull is over.

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