Inuit knowledge of polar bear and co-management in Nunavik - Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, Mark Basterfield, Frankie Jean-Gagnon, Tommy Palliser, James May, Filip Rakic & Chris Furgal
9:00 AM, Sunday 6 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Sherbrooke Pavilion (SH) - SH-3340
In the rapidly changing Arctic environment, co-management institutions under modern land claim agreements have an important role in facilitating meaningful Indigenous participation in wildlife management policy. The inclusion of Inuit local and traditional knowledge in decision-making is a fundamental step towards an adaptive co-management process, as is the inclusion of local perspectives on management issues. Accessing, analyzing, and integrating these forms of knowledge in a co-management system can be a challenge for decision makers, partly given the relatively young concept of formal integration policy, therefore requiring novel techniques. In 2012 the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMRWB) was called upon to formalize polar bear management in the Nunavik Marine Region, a process which required consideration of both Scientific and Inuit Knowledge. While Nunavik Inuit possess a wealth of knowledge about polar bears, very little of it had been documented and thus remained largely inaccessible in the context of co-management decision-making. In order to give full consideration to the knowledge, traditions and hunting practices of Nunavik Inuit in its decisions, the NMRWB developed a project in 2014 to conduct interviews with hunters and elders to gather Inuit Knowledge (IK) and observations from Nunavik communities harvesting from the three sub-populations of polar bears within Nunavik marine waters. A total of 137 participants from 14 communities of Nunavik were engaged in interviews and mapping activities. Participants shared information on the ecology and biology of polar bears, including abundance, distribution, habitat, feeding, health, mating, and denning. While participants generally felt that the number of bears is healthy, and among the highest numbers they have seen in their lifetime, many were very concerned about perspectives from outside Nunavik (at national or international level) that polar bears are endangered everywhere. Participants also spoke about the importance of polar bears, both to themselves and to Nunavimmiut in general, as well as about hunting practices, management, and stewardship. Importantly, a very common sentiment among participants was that traditional stewardship practices were sufficient for conservation, and that the introduction of a quota to limit polar bear hunting was unnecessary and possibly dangerous or counterproductive. The information documented in this study will directly inform wildlife management decisions, and help ensure that these decisions are made in a way that represents the values of the people affected by them. This case of polar bear serves as an example of how co-management organizations can ensure most forms of knowledge are available for use in making decision process.