Science Advisory Report 2012/038
Evaluation of Baffin Bay narwhal hunt sustainability
- 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 approximately 90,000 individuals compose the Baffin Bay population.
- Genetic and contaminant analyses, preliminary stable isotope analyses, satellite tracking, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) indicate that the Baffin Bay population is composed of at least four summering aggregations: Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound, and East Baffin Island.
- 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). These TALCs are conservative, and if respected should allow sustained narwhal harvests into the future.
- Within their summer range, narwhals are hunted by local communities. However, during the spring and fall migrations some Baffin Island communities harvest from a mixture of summering aggregations. To account for this, a model was developed which allocates proportions of the non-summer narwhal hunt among the different Baffin Island summering aggregations based on the most recent abundance estimates.
- The allocation model is not applicable to the Northern Hudson Bay population of narwhals as it is geographically separate from the Baffin Bay narwhals. The model is also not applicable to narwhals in the Parry Islands, Jones Sound, and Smith Sound as there is insufficient knowledge to allocate these catches at the present time.
- New tracking data indicate some exchange between the Admiralty Inlet and Eclipse Sound aggregations during the summer. The implications of this on harvest sustainability were assessed using the attribution model and the results indicated harvests are sustainable under both scenarios (i.e., separate and combined units).
- Harvest sustainability for 2011 was evaluated based on the available information and the results of the retrospective analysis using the attribution model; the conclusions are as follows:
- There are no conservation concerns with the narwhal hunts associated with the summering aggregations of Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound, and East Baffin Island;
- New tracking data indicate some exchange between the Admiralty Inlet and Eclipse Sound aggregations during the summer. Sensitivity analysis that assumed Admiralty Inlet and Eclipse Sound are one unit indicated that catches are still considered sustainable; 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 has not been evaluated.
This Science Advisory Report is from the May 10-11, 2012 review of stock identification, abundance, hunt sustainability, and tracking and movements of Canadian narwhal. Additional publications from this process will be posted as they become available on the DFO Science Advisory Schedule.
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