Inuvialuit-Inupiat Polar Bear Management Agreement

Malenfant, R.M., et al. 2016. Circumpolare genetic structure and new genetic flow of polar bears: A new analysis. PLoS ONE 11 (3): e0148967. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148967. The Inuvialuit-Inupiat Polar Bear Management Agreement in Southern Lake De Beaufort (I-I Agreement), signed in 1988 and confirmed in 2000 by the Inuvialuit Game Council and the North Slope Borough Bohème Game Management, is a voluntary user agreement between Inuvial (Canada) and Inupiat (Alaska) hunters. The I-I agreement provides for annual quotas, hunting periods, protection of bears in or during the construction of caves, females accompanied by young animals and young children, collection of information and samples for monitoring the composition of crops and annual meetings to exchange information on harvesting, research and management. I-I is also establishing a joint commission for the implementation of the I-I agreement and a technical advisory committee of biologists from U.S. and Canadian agencies involved in research and management to collect and analyze scientific data and make recommendations to the Joint Commission. Photo credit: USFWSL`Inuvialuit in Canada and the Inupiat in Alaska (USA) both harvest polar bears from the South Beaufort Lake subpopulation.

Due to concerns about the combined harvest level, Canada set harvest quotas in 1968. After the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States in 1972, only Alaskan Aboriginal people living on the coast were allowed to harvest polar bears for a living, to tinker and sell handicrafts. No quota was set, although the authorized admission should not have been wasted. At the time, there was no mechanism to manage the harvest cooperatively between the two countries. The 1973 International Convention on Polar Bear Conservation requires countries to share polar bear populations, conduct and coordinate research, exchange information and work together on management. The common concern of the population led the Inuvialuit Game Council (on behalf of the Inuvialuit in Canada) and the North Slope Borough Fish and Game Management Committee (on behalf of the Inupiat of the North Slope in Alaska) to negotiate an agreement to ensure the health and stability of this subpopulation and to maintain a sustainable harvest for traditional users. The inuvialuit-Inupiat polar bear management contract, signed in 1988, is regularly updated. The vast land claim for the western Arctic region of the Northwest Territories and the northern slope of the Yukon was settled in 1984.

The Land Claim Contract has been transposed into federal law and is known as the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA). In the Inuvialuit Settlement (ISR) region of the NWT and Yukon, wildlife is managed in accordance with paragraphs 12, 13 and 14 of the IFA. These sections define the principles of wildlife harvesting and management, establish harvesting rights, and outline common principles of management and conservation. They define the structure, roles and responsibilities of the Wildlife Management Advisory Councils (WMACs) for the governments of the Northern and Northwest Territories (NWT), the Inuvialuit Game Council (IGC), the Inuvialuit Hunters and Trappers Committees (HTCs), the Environmental Impact Impact Committee (EISC) and the Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB).