Co-Management in Nunavut

The Nunavut Agreement created a system for wildlife management that would ensure active Inuit participation in all decisions related to wildlife in Nunavut. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) was created to uphold the commitments set out in Article 5 of the Nunavut Agreement, pertaining to wildlife use, research and conservation. The NWMB works in partnership with territorial co-management partners to ensure the long-term sustainability of Nunavut’s many wildlife species.

Polar bear management in Nunavut is based on negotiated Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the Hunters and Trappers Organizations (HTOs), Regional Wildlife Organizations (RWOs) and Department of Environment. The MOU approach was first adopted in 1993 as a means of insuring proper community consultation and inclusive, participative co-management. An MOU is in place for each polar bear population in Nunavut. The Government of Nunavut is currently developing a comprehensive, territory-wide Polar Bear Management Plan that will replace the existing MOUs, and will serve to direct future conservation actions.

Polar bear populations are carefully managed using both rigorous scientific information and Inuit traditional knowledge, called Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit or IQ. Combining both scientific and traditional knowledge, the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board then decide on how many polar bears can be hunted in each population, depending on a number of factors including the size of the polar bear population and their reproductive and survival rates. Our effective co-management system allows for adaptive approaches. If there is evidence that polar bear numbers have gone down, then the number of bears that can be harvested will decrease. This occurred recently in the Baffin Bay region, where the harvest level was reduced due to indications that the population may have declined.

In 2004, the polar bear MOUs were updated in order to enhance the role of RWOs and HTOs in managing the flexible quota system, and to place greater emphasis on incorporation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in polar bear research and management. Extensive consultation with HTOs in every community in Nunavut identified a need to reduce quotas in some polar bear populations, and an opportunity to increase quotas in other populations. The NWMB approved the proposed quota changes since they were considered sustainable and they ensured that Nunavut met its legal responsibilities with respect to polar bear conservation.

Learn more about the Nunavut Agreement and the Nunavut Wildlife Act.

Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB)

The NWMB is the main instrument of wildlife management and the main regulator of access to wildlife in the Nunavut Settlement Area (NSA). The NWMB’s mandate is to ensure the protection and wise use of wildlife and wildlife habitat for the long-term benefit of Inuit, as well as other residents of Nunavut and Canada. The nine-member co-management board is jointly governed by four representatives of Inuit organizations and four representatives of the governments of Nunavut and Canada along with an independent chairperson. Members are nominated by Inuit organizations or government departments and appointed by the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

The Nunavut Agreement sets out a number of powers, duties and functions of the NWMB, including:

  • establishing, modifying or removing quotas and non-quota limitations on wildlife harvesting;
  • approving plans for the management and protection of particular wildlife or wildlife habitats;
  • participating in the negotiation or amendment of domestic interjurisdictional agreements;
  • participating in and funding research; and,
  • promoting the training and employment of Inuit in wildlife research.

Regional Wildlife Boards

There are three Regional Wildlife Organizations (RWOs) in Nunavut: the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, the Kivalliq Regional Wildlife Board, and the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board. These organizations oversee harvesting at the regional level, while the NWMB oversees wildlife management throughout Nunavut.

Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat (NIWS)

The NWMB coordinates its activities with Nunavut's 27 community-based Hunters and Trappers Organizations (HTO's), and three Regional Wildlife Organizations (RWOs), which together work collaboratively with the NIWS.  These organizations oversee harvesting at the local and regional levels, while the NWMB oversees wildlife management throughout the Nunavut Settlement Area.