A misfortune of nature in Nunavut leads to mass whale slaughter

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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POND INLET, Nunavut - A bittersweet harvest is happening on Baffin Island's northeast coast.
About 500 white whales, called narwhals, were trapped in the ice about 50 kilometres from the open ocean.
They were discovered last week by hunters who saw polar bears feasting on some narwhal carcasses near Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
Pond Inlet residents have killed about 300 so far by shooting them as the narwhals surface to breathe at a handful of small air holes in the ice which are rapidly freezing shut.
Keith Pelley, an official with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says the freezing ice will cause the whales to drown or die of starvation, so the department has approved the harvest.
Pelley says the closest Coast Guard ice breaker would need seven days to get to Pond Inlet, but that would be too late to save the narwhals.
The remaining whales that are alive will be killed in the next few days.
Pond Inlet official Mike Richards says local residents feel bad for the whales, but they're going to die anyway, so the whales may as well be harvested so the community of one-thousand people can be well-fed for the next few weeks.

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Coast Guard

Geographic location: POND INLET, Nunavut, Baffin Island

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Recent comments

  • Bridget
    January 18, 2010 - 10:05

    If the Canadian Coast Guard can send icebreakers out each year to break ice to enable sealers to kill seal pups, there is absolutely NO reason it cannot send one icebreaker out to break ice to save those narwhals. I would much rather see my tax dollars being used to save marine life rather than facilitating the slaughter of them.

    Govt says it would take seven days to reach the narwhal and they would have all perished by that time. Yet they wre discovered last week and some still live.

    Other countries would have attempted to save these majestic creatures. But once again the Canadian government takes the politically advantageous way out and simply gives permission for hunters to kill them all.

    While the narwhal is not endangered at the moment, studies indicate that global warming is a source of concern for their survial. It was global warming that caused their present predicament. The loss of 500 narwhal at one time is bound to have consequences on the overall population. Attempts should be made to avert this marine disaster.

    The manner in which the Canadian government has handled this issue is an absolute disgrace and I think it should be held accountable by Canadians. Canadians should demand to know why - if the government sends icebreakers out to aid in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups each year - why can it not send an icebreaker out to save hundreds of narwhal?