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Quebec seeks deal on polar bear harvest

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

Hunters and wildlife officials are hoping that an upcoming meeting in the eastern Canadian province of Quebec will resolve issues over the polar bear harvest in southern Hudson Bay.

The meeting follows a larger than usual harvest that saw hunters kill more than 70 bears in the area last season prompted by soaring prices for hides.

Research suggests 45 bears is a sustainable target for all of southern Hudson Bay.

Otherwise, the future of the hunt in Sanikiluaq — which receives Nunavut's quota for the area of 25 bears — could be at risk.

Hunters in Nunavik, a predominantly Inuit region in Quebec's Far North, have no fixed quota system. Meanwhile, Inuit hunters in Sanikiluaq, a small Nunavut community on the Belcher Islands in southern Hudson Bay, have a harvest limit of 25 polar bears a year.

"The significant increase in Quebec is a concern because we're not sure how that increased harvest will impact on the status of the population," said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut's director of wildlife management.

"And if it results in a significant decline in the population, it might impact on Nunavut's future harvest, where we might have to reduce our harvest as well and that's why it's a great concern for Nunavut."

Consenus sought at meeting

Gissing hopes the next meeting — which will bring together hunters, and representatives of Inuit organizations and government — leads to an agreement on an overall quota for Southern Hudson Bay.

But Gissing said any agreement is impossible without more input from hunters, and communities such as Sanikiluaq.

And Joe Arragutainaq, the mayor of Sanikiluaq, said the scale of last year's harvest in Nunavik threatens the future of the harvest for generations to come.

"My thought is we should not let it happen again," he said.

Ontario, Nunavut and Quebec hunt from the southern Hudson Bay polar bear population.

The three regions got together in June in Quebec City to discuss the hunt and will meet next in Inukjuak next month.

"We were concerned that the harvest was unsustainable — and we're now trying to work together with Quebec and Ontario in coming to a resolution on the harvest for the upcoming season."