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Movement and diving of Northern Hudson Bay narwhals (Monodon monoceros): Relevance to stock assessment and hunt co-management

Westdal, Kristin H.





The Northern Hudson Bay narwhal (Monodon monoceros ) population gathers in the area of Repulse Bay, Nunavut in the summer season. This population is culturally important to the local Inuit communities and is hunted for subsistence purposes. The narwhal population is co-managed by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. There is some uncertainty as to the population size, where this population of narwhal migrates in the winter, if its range overlaps with that of other narwhal populations and whether it is hunted by additional communities than Repulse Bay. The purpose of this research is to improve population estimates of narwhals summering near Repulse Bay, to determine if this population is geographically separate from other narwhal populations, to identify summer movement in the Repulse Bay area and to add to written documentation of local knowledge of the species, held only by community members, that may provide insight related to these issues. I combined satellite telemetry data and local knowledge to gain a greater understanding of the population for management purposes. I used satellite telemetry data from five narwhals tagged in August of 2006 and four in August of 2007 in the Repulse Bay area, and analysis of local knowledge from seventeen interviews conducted with hunters and elders in the community of Repulse Bay in July and August of 2007. Research results will benefit co-management bodies and the community of Repulse Bay by providing written documentation of local knowledge of the species and by improving the current population estimate of narwhal from which sustainable harvest levels can be managed. August spatial distribution of the NHB narwhal did not fall entirely within the boundaries of past aerial survey coverage, and future aerial survey will need to be expanded to account for this. Surface times recorded from diving data, used to calculate an aerial survey correction factor, were found to be different from that of High Arctic narwhal. This difference, although not comparable statistically due to small sample size used in the High Arctic calculation, results in a higher population estimate for the NHB narwhal population. Lastly, data gathered on winter and summer home range adds to the evidence that the NHB narwhal is a separate population to that of the Baffin Bay narwhal. Narwhal are important culturally, spiritually and economically to the people of Repulse Bay. Involving the community in this research and in future research is key to successful co-management partnerships.

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