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Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and adaptive co-management: A case study of narwhal co-management in Arctic Bay, Nunavut

Dale, Aaron T.





Since 2001 the community of Arctic Bay, located on north-western Baffin Island, in Nunavut, Canada, has been experimenting with a new approach to narwhal management—'community-based' narwhal management. The new management system has devolved some decision-making powers to the local Hunters' and Trappers' Organization, who are empowered/required to draft by-laws to govern the hunt. Community-based narwhal management links local, regional, territorial, and national actors and agencies in a co-management arrangement that draws its powers from, and is steered by, the Nunavut Final Agreement (1993), the comprehensive land claims agreement between the Inuit of Nunavut and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. A primary purpose of the Nunavut Final Agreement, and the institutions created or empowered thereby, is to maximize Inuit participation in decision-making, and ensure that Inuit traditional knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit ) steers governance. In the field of resource and environmental management, the presumed benefits of knowledge integration (combining/comparing traditional knowledge with Western scientific knowledge) have been constrained by the fact that Western wildlife management institutions have co-evolved with Western scientific knowledge and do not easily accommodate alternate knowledge systems. However, knowledge integration has been recognized as a fundamental purpose of collaborative management, and a critical determinant of adaptive capacity. Is Nunavut's community-based narwhal management process integrating Inuit and Western knowledge meaningfully? Is knowledge integration building capacity to buffer change and adapt to changing circumstances. Challenges and risks associated with knowledge integration have not been adequately assessed, and collaborative narwhal management has not been understood in relation to its broader temporal and social-ecological context. This research, which draws heavily upon interviews conducted with resource-users and representatives of local, territorial and state management agencies, suggests that although devolution of some decision-making powers to community-level actors under the terms of the Nunavut Final Agreement is enabling knowledge integration, and adaptive capacity in turn, the presumed benefits of both have been slow to materialize.

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