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Nunavik Inuit Perspectives on Beluga Whale Management in the Canadian Arctic

Tyrrell, Martina



Human Organization



In the Arctic, there has long been a strong relationship between Inuit and beluga whales. As well as being considered sentient creatures, Inuit value these small white toothed whales for nutritional, economic, social, and cultural reasons. They are a staple food for many Inuit, and in the complex set of social activities that surround the hunting, butchering, and sharing of belugas, Inuit knowledge, skill, identity, and kinship are enacted and reproduced. Since the mid-1980s the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has endeavored to restore and maintain beluga populations in Nunavik, northern Quebec. In the past decade, these conservation practices have increasingly impinged on the hunting of belugas by Inuit and, by extension, the social and cultural practices within which beluga hunting is situated. While DFO regards the management of belugas as one of biological conservation, Inuit situate this management within narratives of cultural imperialism. To ensure greater involvement by Inuit in the formulation and enactment of management policy, government at all levels must become aware of the broader historical and political processes that Inuit perceive to be at the root of current management practices. As the co-management institutions of the fledgling Nunavik government take shape, can it take lessons from other more successful regimes across the North American Arctic? [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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