Calls for more fisheries officers in Canada’s central Arctic

Gabriel Nirlungayuk is the regional director of DFO’s new Arctic region. On Wednesday, he heard calls for the department to have more of a presence in Inuvik. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)
The regional director of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ new Arctic region has set out on a tour to find out what Northern communities are hoping to see from his department, making the first stop Wednesday in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

Gabriel Nirlungayuk began his series of public engagement sessions by speaking with the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board (GRRB) on Wednesday morning.

Nirlungayuk said he’s previously had some informal meetings with several organizations, including a meeting with Dene First Nations Chief Norman Yakeleya in November after frustrations were voiced about a lack of consultation with Dene communities prior to the announcement of the new region.

During Wednesday’s meeting, a clear topic of discussion was that people want fishery officers back in the region.

Gabriel Nirlungayuk started his tour of public engagement sessions on Wednesday at a meeting of the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board in Inuvik. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

“The biggest issue is presence,” said Amy Amos, the GRRB’s executive director. “Having more staff and having more supervisors is always beneficial.”

Amos said that over her 13 years on the board of GRRB, she’s noticed a decline in fishery officers in the Inuvik region.

As of this coming May, there will be a total of 10 fishery officers in the Northwest Territories, according to department officials at Wednesday’s meeting. Seven are based in Yellowknife (central N.W.T.), and three in Hay River (southern N.W.T.).

“If you have more capacity then you are able to provide education, enforcement and be part of the community … that’s what I hear is there is lack of capacity in the Inuvialuktun and Gwich’in Settlement Area,” said Nirlungayuk.

“DFO used to have a strong presence in Inuvik and it has slowly declined a bit over to Nunavut … they want the presence back in terms of conservation officers in the communities.”

Nirlungayuk also met with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the organization representing the interests of Canada’s western Inuit, on Wednesday.

He said he’s hopeful that he will complete his engagement sessions by the spring, and have a report completed by the fall.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Senate report says Canada’s coast guard should recruit Inuktitut speakers, CBC News

Finland: Cold winter brings out Finland’s icebreakers ahead of schedule, Yle News

Greenland: Binding agreement on Arctic fisheries moratorium officially signed by EU and nine countries, Radio Canada International

Norway: A cruise ship bound for the North Pole, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Far East ministry to get powers over Arctic policy, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: New Arctic shipping database launched by Arctic Council working group, Eye on the Arctic

United States: ‘Uber for icebreakers’ idea gains traction in U.S. Senate, Alaska Public Media

Mackenzie Scott, CBC News

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