Small Whale Co-management in the Eastern Canadian Arctic: A Case History and Analysis


  • P.R. Richard
  • D.G. Pike



Animal migration, Beluga whales, Co-management, Economic conditions, Traditional knowledge, Inuit, Law, Narwhals, Public opinion, Public participation, Subsistence, Whaling, Wildlife management, Baffin Bay-Davis Strait, Greenland, Nunavut


This paper explores the problems and challenges of co-management of beluga and narwhal populations in the Eastern Arctic region of the Northwest Territories. The political and regulatory context of co-management has changed in the last 14 years. Regulations were amended in 1980 and 1990 to limit harvest and the conditions of harvest. The Nunavut Land Claim Settlement Agreement-in-Principle of 1990 created a new framework for wildlife management. The 1990 Supreme Court decision in the Sparrow case was a strong admonition for native involvement in management of their fisheries resources. Canada and Greenland formed a joint commission for conservation and management of shared stocks of narwhals and belugas. The history of Southeast Baffin beluga co-management, our case study, is one of informal and incomplete co-management, because the hunters did not have full participation in the research pertaining to the evaluation of stock status, nor did they have the power to decide on the management of the stock. The decision of Fisheries and Oceans to severely limit beluga hunting created a crisis, which eventually led to the creation of a formal complete beluga co-management committee. We conclude that complete co-management, with full participation of Inuit hunters, is necessary for effective conservation and management of eastern Canadian small whales. Nevertheless, the vast area through which narwhal and beluga populations range, the large number of people and communities that would be involved in such a co-management process and the difficulty in determining stock status are important challenges to co-managers.

Key words: Southeast Baffin, Baffin Bay, High Arctic, Greenland, hunters, harvesting, conservation, protection, Nunavut, Sparrow