Québec has three polar bear subpopulations:
- Southern Hudson Bay;
- Foxe Basin;
- Davis Strait.
These polar bear subpopulations are also found in adjacent provinces, territories and countries. Consequently, management orientations require coordination among the various responsible authorities.
In Québec, harvesting of polar bears is done primarily in the marine regions adjacent to Québec’s jurisdictional area (Eeyou Marine Region [EMR] and Nunavik Marine Region [NMR]). Within Québec’s jurisdiction and adjacent marine regions, harvesting of this species is limited to the Cree and the Inuit, in accordance with land claim agreements presented below.
Currently, a polar bear management plan is being developed for Québec, the EMR and the NMR. The purpose of this plan is to maintain healthy populations of polar bears, which represent an important component of the local ecosystem, so that current and future generations can benefit in a way that respects and embodies the rights, culture and traditions of the Inuit of Nunavik and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. The plan will also orient management of the polar bear while respecting the roles, responsibilities and powers of each of the organizations involved, in its application zone.
Depending on the status of the polar bear subpopulations and the management objectives agreed upon by the parties, various regulatory measures may be necessary to structure the polar bear harvest, such as total allowable take and non-quota limitations, some of which have already been recommended.
Polar Bear Management
Québec’s Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs(MFFP) has been mandated by the Gouvernement du Québec to ensure the management of wildlife species and their habitats. In northern Québec, wildlife management is subject to the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA). Management of this species is done in collaboration with the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC), established under Section 24 of the JBNQA for the purpose of administering the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Regime.
Summary of applicable agreements and organizations involved in management:
In the EMR and the NMR, the waters and sea ice are under the authority of the federal government (Environment and Climate Change Canada), while the islands are under the responsibility of the Government of Nunavut (Department of Environment).1. In marine regions, other agreements apply regarding harvesting rights in areas of common use by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik, by the Inuit of Nunavik and of Nunavut, as well as by the Inuit of Nunavik and Labrador. Other organizations are also involved in polar bear harvest management in these areas, i.e. the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the Torngat Secretariat.
In the EMR, wildlife management is governed by the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement (EMRLCA). The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB) was created under the EMRLCA to make decisions regarding the management of wildlife species in EMR, including those related to the polar bear.
In the NMR, the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (NILCA) governs wildlife management. The Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMRWB) was created under this agreement and is responsible for decision-making regarding questions related to management of wildlife species in NMR, including those related to the polar bear.
In some parts of the NMR and the EMR, reciprocal rights have been defined through overlap agreements. Three agreements of this type apply, and are integral parts of the land claim agreements:
- Reciprocal Arrangements between Nunavik Inuit and the Inuit of Nunavut (Article 27 of NILCA);
- The Consolidated Agreement Relating to the Cree/Inuit Offshore Overlapping Interests Area, between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Nunavik Inuit (Cree/Inuit Overlap Agreement [in Article 28 of NILCA and Article 30 of EMRLCA])
- Nunavik Inuit Rights and Interests in the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area Portion of the Overlap Area (Article 29 of NILCA).
Only harvesting of the Southern Hudson Bay subpopulation is limited, through a total allowable take and non-quota limitations. Since July 1, 2017, a total allowable take of 23 bears has been in effect in Québec and adjacent marine regions, in addition to several non-quota limitations. The latter include respecting a harvest ratio of one female for every two males, reporting of all human-caused deaths, protection of cubs and females with cubs and bears that are less than three years (except in defence of life and property), as well as the protection of bears in their dens. However, reporting of the harvest is still done on a voluntary basis in Québec.
Moreover, an agreement between the Nunavik Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Association (Anguvigaq) and the Gouvernement du Québec has guided polar bear hunting practices among Nunavik Inuit through non-quota limitations since the 1980s.
Anguvigaq Polar Bear Regulations–1984
* Problem bear is defined as any polar bear that is a threat to life or property.
Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP)
The MFFP ensures management of this species through monitoring of the harvest and by the distribution and monitoring of tags which must be attached to registered hides. The Ministry is also involved in monitoring the demography of the three subpopulations that can be found in the Québec’s jurisdiction and adjacent waters, in collaboration with the other responsible governments. The MFFP can count on the work of its wildlife protection officers to support its mission.
The MFFP is the repository for the record of harvested polar bears, and compiles and analyzes harvest data. Polar bear harvest management is implemented at the community level by representatives of the Hunter Support Program (managed by Kativik Regional Government) in the 14 Inuit communities and by CTA representatives in the five Cree coastal communities of Eeyou Istchee. Currently, in Québec, the Inuit and Cree are not required to register their polar bear harvests with the Ministère. They do it on a voluntary basis.
Under the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife (chapter C-61.1), possession of a polar bear pelt is subject to rules in Québec. The MFFP distributes and monitors the mandatory tags for any non-Indigenous person having a raw polar bear hide in his/her possession as well as for export outside of Québec. The MFFP is responsible for issuing export permits for interprovincial trade purposes.
The MFFP shares with neighbouring authorities the responsibility for monitoring the abundance and trends of Québec’s three polar bear subpopulations.
The MFFP, through the work of its wildlife protection officers, is responsible for enforcement and investigation with regard to the registration and trade of polar bear pelts within its jurisdiction, in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Québec wildlife protection officers are also involved in promoting wildlife conservation and have developed educational and awareness initiatives for this purpose. The MFFP has established protection officer positions in certain Cree and Inuit communities with the purpose of fulfilling the roles mentioned above.
The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB)
The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB) is established as the main instrument for managing wildlife in the Eeyou Marine Region (EMR). The board has four members appointed by the Cree Nation Government, one member appointed by the Government of Nunavut and two members appointed by the Government of Canada. The EMRWB works closely with the Cree Trappers Association in carrying out its mandate. It is involved in research on wildife in the EMR and manages a special $5 million Wildlife Research Fund provided by the Government of Canada. They key responsibilities of the EMRWB are to establish harvesting levels for species stock or population of wildlife in the EMR, provide advice and cooperate to other wildlife management institutions operating in the EMR.
The Nunavut Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMWRB)
The Nunavut Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMWRB) is the main instrument of wildlife management in the Nunavik Marine Region. The NMRWB aims to consider both western science and traditional Inuit knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) when making wildlife management decisions. The NMRWB is an institution of public government that was created and operates under the Nunavik Inuit Land Claim Agreement (NILCA). T