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Nunavut's age-old fur trade goes digital

Nunavut's age-old fur trade is finally getting a cyber-age treatment, with the territorial government developing an online inventory program to track the movement and sale of pelts.

Online inventory to launch territory-wide next month

Nunavut's age-old fur trade is finally getting a cyber-age treatment, with the territorial government developing an online inventory program to track the movement and sale of pelts.

The digital database is intended to ensure hunters are getting fair market prices for their harvest, marking a big change for a traditional industry that for generations depended on bartering, haggling and sometimes shady dealing.

Fur traders in Nunavut will soon be able to track the movement and sale of furs using an online database, currently under development by the territorial government. ((CBC))

Wayne Lynch, the Government of Nunavut's fisheries manager, hopes bar-coding introduced in the online overhaul will eliminate much of the previous uncertainty.

"This gives us the ability to know exactly what we have in inventory, exactly what we paid for it, in real time, instead of having to go back and pore over inventories and data to get that information," he said. "So it's a cost savings, as well as a great tool for us to react to markets."

Currently, Lynch said, a typical request to pull up records of every fur sold between a certain period of months could take "weeks and weeks" to gather.

'Just hit the button'

"With this new system, we can just hit the button and everything will print out," he said. "You know exactly where it is, what it is, who's hunted it, and what the price is."

Most wildlife officials currently keep paper records of what they purchase, and what goes to auction.

A similar digital inventory program has been used in the Northwest Territories for a decade now.

Francois Roussouw, the fur manager for the N.W.T. government, said the online organization system will have a positive impact on Nunavut's fur business.

"Any database related to fur harvesting, it's a financial database," he said. "It's all about money for the harvester, and I think it's something Nunavut needs to do, and I think that their harvesters will benefit from such a program."

Wildlife offices in a few Nunavut communities will begin trials with the digital system in January, with a plan to introduce the online inventory territory-wide in the spring.

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