Draft land use plan fails to protect Nunavut marine mammals, say territory's hunters
‘Every time the shipping starts, the sea mammals move,’ says chair of Chesterfield Inlet HTO
Hunters across Nunavut are calling on the Nunavut Planning Commission to protect waterways populated by walrus, seal and beluga from increased shipping traffic as it drafts the territory's first land use plan.
The Planning Commission recently hosted a technical meeting to gather input from stakeholders on how to balance the needs of industry, local communities and the environment when it comes to the territory's marine areas.
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Coastal communities in the territory's Kivalliq region say they are severely impacted by increased shipping and want greater protection for their waterways in the land use plan.
The draft plan does not contain restrictions on shipping through Chesterfield Inlet.
Aggark said in the past the community would see approximately three to five ships annually in their waterways, en route to the hamlet of Baker Lake.
"But since Meadowbank (mine, located 75 kilometres north of Baker Lake) has started, it's increased a lot more each year," said Aggark.
"They started off with about 25 to 30 ships, but today, we see between 40 to 50 ships pass by."
Harder to find seals
"The hunters couldn't even provide enough sealskin because there was nothing to hunt," said Aggark. "They actually had to order some sealskin from out of the community.
"If it was 10 years ago, the fur they needed probably could have been filled the same day."
The numbers of beluga in local waters has also decreased, according to Aggark, leading to a "tough situation" for locals who rely on the Arctic whales for food.
"We live heavily off seafood so that worries us," said Aggark. "We don't have anything in Chester in place to try and help keep the spill contained until the Coast Guard come in."
The Kivalliq Wildlife Board, representing hunters and trappers from various hamlets in Nunavut, wants the territory's land use plan to designate Chesterfield Inlet as a special management area, placing limits on the volume of ships permitted to travel through the inlet each year.
Walrus habitat at risk
"There's not much walrus right now as they used to be," said Moses Nakoolak, the chair of the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Association, who added that increased shipping traffic is to blame for driving the populations away.
"It's very important, because it's our meal mostly every day."
The Kivalliq Wildlife Board is asking for restrictions on shipping near Coates, Southhampton and Walrus Islands, which are located near Coral Harbour, as well as asking for shipping routes to be moved to the south of Coates Island rather than between Coates and Southampton Island.
Although the draft land use plan "provides direction to regulatory authorities to mitigate impacts on walrus haul-outs," the Kivalliq Wildlife Board wants greater protection, calling for a prohibition on mining, exploration, and related activities at walrus haul-out sites, and asking for marine shipping traffic to maintain a minimum distance of 20 kilometres from these sites.