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Meeting of the National Marine Mammal Peer Review Committee: 2006-2010 harvest attributions for Baffin Bay narwhal

Zonal Science Special Response Process – National Capital and Central and Arctic regions

May 19, 2011

Chairperson: Don Bowen


The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) plans to begin the process of establishing Total Allowable Harvest (TAH) levels for narwhal. 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 harvest plan whereby hunting mortality for each biological unit (in its summer range and during spring/fall migration) does not exceed conservation limits. Although the May 6th meeting documents have not been finalized and approved, participants of the peer review concluded that model provided a reasonable basis for attributing the catch, but recommended further work on the sensitivity of the model to departures from model assumptions.

Science has requested a retrospective analysis of the sustainability of the 2006-2010 narwhal catches using this allocation model.


The objectives of the meeting are as follows:

  1. to assess the results of using the allocation model to conduct retrospective analyses on historical catch data. The 2006-2010 narwhal harvest statistics will be used as a case study for this assessment.
  2. to identify the uncertainties associated with using this model to assess the sustainability of harvests retrospectively.
  3. to assess whether, based on the 5-stock model and existing advice on TALC, the narwhal harvest in Baffin Bay from 2006-2010 was sustainable.

Expected Publications

Scientific advice resulting from this meeting will be published as a Science Response. This document will be published on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) website.


DFO Oceans and Science sector, DFO Ecosystems and Fisheries Management sector, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board and external experts will be invited to participate in this science advisory meeting.


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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