Balancing science and aboriginal knowledge in Canada’s North

A new narwhal management is in place in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.  (Kristin Laidre / NOAA / AP)
A new narwhal management is in place in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.
(Kristin Laidre / NOAA / AP)
Narwhal is an important species in Canada’s North. To local Inuit communities it’s a source of food and sustenance and can provide a small source of income.

Issues around the conservation and preservation of the animal are the subject of ongoing discussions.

What’s the best way to balance science and traditional knowledge? How should conservation plans be crafted to best respect the needs of aboriginal communities?

“It’s quite complex and I’m sure it will be quite complex for years to come,” says Gabriel Nirlungayuk, Director of Wildlife and Environment at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI), the Inuit land claims organization in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

But in May, a fisheries management plan was announced for narwhal in Canada’s northern Hudson Bay.

The plan is a joint effort between Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI), the Inuit land claims organization.

Given the size of Nunavut, Nirlungayuk says it’s a huge effort to put such a plan in place but he’s optimistic about the results for those living in Nunavut.

“It’s has been a challenge both from the authorities’ side and from the Inuit side but fortunately, whether people like it or not, we were able to come together from some kind of consensus .”

To find out more about the challenges and advantages of bringing scientific and traditional knowledge together, I recently spoke to Gabriel Nirlungayuk in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

To listen to our conversation, click here

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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