Science Advisory Report 2011/073
Evaluation of Canadian narwhal hunt sustainability with respect to making a CITES non-detriment finding
- Scientific surveys conducted in various areas of the Canadian High Arctic from 1996 to 2010 indicate that the summer range of narwhals is vast and there are approximately 90,000 individuals.
- Two narwhal populations are recognized in Canadian waters: the Baffin Bay population and the Northern Hudson Bay population.
- Genetic and contaminant analyses, tracking programs, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and scientific research surveys indicate that the Baffin Bay population is comprised of at least four summering aggregations: Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound, and East Baffin Island.Narwhals are also present in Parry Channel, Jones Sound, and Smith Sound; however there is limited information available regarding their abundance and distribution.
- Recommended harvest levels for each summering aggregation are based on the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) calculation and are presented as Total Allowable Landed Catch (TALC). Recommended harvest levels (TALC) are conservative and if they are respected should allow sustained catches into the future.
- Narwhals are relatively sedentary during the summer and are hunted within their summer range by local communities. However, during the spring and fall migrations Baffin Island communities harvest from a mixture of summering aggregations. To account for this, a model was developed which allocated proportions of the non-summer narwhal hunt among the different Baffin Island summering aggregations.
- The allocation model is not applicable to the Northern Hudson Bay population of narwhals because it is geographically separate from Baffin Bay narwhals. In addition, there is insufficient knowledge to allocate catches of narwhals in Parry Channel, Jones Sound, or Smith Sound to specific communities.
- Preliminary tagging data from 2011 indicates that four narwhal moved from Eclipse Sound to Admiralty Inlet during the summer. Given this new information and the possibility of mixing between the Eclipse Sound and Admiralty Inlet summering aggregations, an analysis using the allocation model was conducted assuming these were one unit. The results of this analysis represent an extremely conservative scenario, and were not substantially different from the original results of the model, providing further support for the overall sustainability of the Canadian narwhal hunt in 2006 through 2010.
- Harvest sustainability for the period 2006 to 2010 was evaluated based on the available information and the results of the retrospective analysis using the allocation model; the conclusions are as follows:
- There are no conservation concerns with the narwhal hunt from the summering aggregations of Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound, and East Baffin Island;
- The narwhal hunt in the Northern Hudson Bay population is unsustainable as landings exceed the recommended TALC; and
- Owing to the paucity of data available for narwhals in Parry Channel, Jones Sound, and Smith Sound, the sustainability of the narwhal hunt in these areas have not been evaluated.
This Science Advisory Report is from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, National Marine Mammal Peer-Review Committee advisory meeting of October 17-21, 2011. Additional publications from this process will be posted as they become available on the DFO Science Advisory Schedule.
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