For the first time in nearly 30 years, Aklavik, N.W.T., hunters can harvest a bowhead whale

Gerald Inglangasuk and Herb Nakimayak of Aklavik, N.W.T., are both members of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee. (Dez Loreen / CBC - image credit)
Gerald Inglangasuk and Herb Nakimayak of Aklavik, N.W.T., are both members of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee. (Dez Loreen / CBC - image credit)

For the first time in almost three decades, a bowhead whale will be harvested in the Northwest Territories.

Hunters in Aklavik, N.W.T., will make the catch, and the whale meat will be distributed to Inuvialuit and Gwich'in communities in the region.

Community members in Alkavik first had the idea to apply for a permit about a year ago, and were granted permission at the beginning of June, said Herb Nakimayak, a member of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee.

"This is Inuvialuit practicing and continuing our way of life and passing on tradition and knowledge while the expertise is still in the region," he said.

Nakimayak said that conservation of the species is important to the Inuvialuit and they are planning carefully to make sure there's little to no part of the whale that is wasted. They are also taking steps to gather scientific data on the whale that they catch.

"This is actually quite a big celebration in the region, because we are utilizing our land claims … Keeping ourselves accountable as well as Canada," he said.

The last time a bowhead whale was hunted in Aklavik was in 1996,  said Gerald Inglangasuk, also a member of the committee.

Bowhead whales, sometimes referred to as the Greenland right whales, weigh more than 60,000 kilograms.

"That's a big whale, eh?" Inglangasuk said.

"With a bowhead, it takes a lot more than a weekend, it's easy to shoot it. The hard part is butchering it and sharing it, that's another tradition we're going to do, sharing."

Nakimayak said that a plan for all parts of the hunt, including the sharing, will be completed before the hunt takes place.