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2020 Year in Review: August

Researchers warn of dire fate for polar bears

How badly will polar bears be affected by climate change, or will they manage to adapt? The debate is ongoing.
Pixabay photo

Many polar bear populations could be extinct or on the verge of extinction in 80 years if greenhouse gases rise at a high rate, a new scientific study by six researchers predicted.

Under that scenario, global warming and disappearing sea ice would increasingly deprive polar bears of food sources, particularly seals, and the predators’ periods of fasting would consequently grow longer and longer until unsustainable, the report’s authors state.

Some sub-populations could die off sooner than others, with bears in the southern Hudson Bay and Davis Strait possibly facing their demise within two decades if greenhouse gas emissions rise rapidly, forecasts the study.

Yet some Inuit hunters were skeptical. Philip Putumiraqtuq, chair of Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization, said he places greater value in Inuit observations and teachings.

“The way they discuss the scientists, what they say, I never really go for that. I only follow my cultural ways,” he said. “My dad, what he said before is ‘they’ll still stick around.’”

North Baffin community leaders oppose QIA/Baffinland agreement

Mayors of two Qikiqtaaluk communities representing the North Baffin Community Group warned that “trouble is brewing” as the proposed expansion of the Mary River iron mine is pitting five affected communities against their regional Inuit association.

The communique critiques the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and its president, P.J. Akeeagok, for signing an Inuit Certainty Agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines in June.

“The agreement commits the (QIA) to supporting the phase two expansion of the Mary River mine, provided certain conditions are met,” the news release reads. “The agreement, signed without consent of the affected communities, appears headed for a rough ride.”

The memorandum, which indicates Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak and Iglulik Mayor Merlyn Recinos can be contacted for further information, states that a teleconference among the affected communities “revealed considerable discomfort” with the Inuit Certainty Agreement. The other communities in question are Arctic Bay, Sanirajak and Clyde River.

RCMP give details on fatal Kinngait shooting

Nunavut RCMP released some details pertaining to the shooting death of Attachie Ashoona, who was involved in a confrontation with a police officer in Kinngait on Feb. 26.

An officer fired a pistol twice, striking Ashoona, as Ashoona cornered him in a residence threatening to kill the officer with a raised knife in hand, according to the police.

Ottawa Police Service conducted an independent investigation into the actions of the officer and found no reason to lay charges.

“This was a difficult situation for the Ashoona family, the police officers involved and Mr. Ashoona, who lost his life. Our thoughts are with the community of Kinngait and all affected by this event,” said Supt. Amanda Jones, commanding officer of Nunavut’s RCMP.

Orcas serve as attraction in Pangnirtung

Orcas were spotted at Pangnirtung Fiord in early August, said Pangnirtung resident Melinda Akulukjuk.

“They were following a bowhead when we first went to see them,” said Akulukjuk.

Normally, orcas can be found around Cumberland Sound but not inside the Pangnirtung Fiord, she said.

She guesses there were about 20 of the whales in the fiord.

“I have seen some before while boating but not that close,” she said, adding,“It was a bit scary to get too close.

Sanirajak quickly gets its bowhead

Triumphant hunters in Sanirajak stand atop the 41.5-foot bowhead whale that they harvested on Aug. 1.
photo courtesy of Richard Amarualik

It only took a Sanirajak hunting party several hours to harvest a bowhead as one passed nearby the community.

There were four hunting vessels and a couple of scouting boats in the small fleet. Close to 25 people participated in the quest.

A loader helped haul the huge mammal onto the beach, where many jubilant residents were watching and eager to begin stripping away the skin and maktaaq.

“It looked like the whole town (was on shore) when we were arriving, a huge crowd,” said Abe Qammaniq, a member of Sanirajak’s bowhead committee. “(They were) cheering, screaming… clapping, whistles. It was great!”

Governments invest $27 million in South Baffin energy project

The South Baffin Energy Management Project will be receiving about $18.3 million through the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.

The initiative will help to improve energy efficiency and introduce renewable energy in 45 buildings owned by the GN, he said. These buildings are located in the communities of Iglulik, Kimmirut, Kinngait, Pangnirtung, Sanirajak and Sanikiluaq.

“It is going to cut greenhouse gases. It is going to create jobs, and it’s a step in the right direction in terms of environmental sustainability,” Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said of the project.

The GN’s Department of Community and Government Services is contributing $8.6 million toward the project. The department is providing support with retrofits such as implementation of solar panels, applying mechanical and control system upgrades, upgrading lighting to LEDs, and helping with the installation of water-saving fixtures.