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Science Response 2011/012

2006-2010 Harvest Attributions for Baffin Bay Narwhals


The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) plans to begin the process of establishing Total Allowable Harvest (TAH) levels for narwhals. In preparation for that, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) presented to the NWMB a working hypothesis that narwhal summering aggregations represent distinct biological units (i.e., provisional management units/stocks), along with sustainable catch recommendations for each of these units. Narwhals are harvested by communities located near their summering aggregation areas and by more distant communities during the spring/fall migrations. Therefore, the total hunting pressure on individual units cannot be assessed directly.

DFO Ecosystems and Fisheries Management recently requested advice on how best to determine community allocations so that harvest from each of the summering aggregations is consistent with the sustainable catch recommendation. A community harvest allocation model was recently developed to attribute narwhal catches to each of the communities that harvest from known Baffin Bay summering stocks (provisional management units); this model was peer-reviewed on May 6, 2011 to assess its potential to guide co-management decisions on future community harvest allocations. The purpose of the model is to provide a management tool for allocating catch from different communities without exceeding the total allowable landed catch from any stock. Although the May 6th meeting documents had not yet been finalized and approved, participants of the peer review concluded that model provided a reasonable basis for allocating the catch, but recommended further work on the sensitivity of the model to departures from model assumptions.

Following the above-mentioned meeting, Science at National headquarters requested a retrospective analysis of the sustainability of the 2006-2010 narwhal catches using the allocation model to attribute recorded catches and seasonal catch proportions.

This Science Response report is from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (Zonal Science Special Response Process [SSRP] of May 19, 2010 on the 2006-2010 harvest attributions for Baffin Bay narwhals).

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