Arctic Science (Sep 2020)

Social-ecological changes and implications for understanding the declining beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) harvest in Aklavik, Northwest Territories

  • Elizabeth Worden,
  • Tristan Pearce,
  • Michelle Gruben,
  • Dorothy Ross,
  • Clarence Kowana,
  • Lisa Loseto

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 3
pp. 229 – 246


Read online

Subsistence is the basis for food access for Inuvialuit in the western Canadian Arctic and has strong economic, dietary, and cultural importance. Inuvialuit harvest beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas (Pallas, 1776)) from the eastern Beaufort beluga population during summer months within parameters established through co-management. Over the past thirty years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of beluga harvested by Inuvialuit from the community of Aklavik, Northwest Territories. This paper investigates the potential drivers of change, both social and ecological, affecting the beluga harvest. Data were collected using 32 semi-directed interviews and experiential learning. Results revealed that ecological changes, notably coastal erosion at preferred whaling camps and unpredictable and severe weather have made harvesting more difficult, expensive, and often impractical. These changes are being experienced together with social changes including the loss of elders and their knowledge, and changing values and motivations for harvesting beluga. We conclude that no one driver is responsible for the decline in the beluga harvest, but rather it is the result of multiple social-ecological changes operating across scales that affect the feasibility of the harvest and motivation to participate. Isumatuyut ikayuqtuat avvakuyaa niqimun pimagaa Inuvialuit uataani Canadian Arcticmi nakuuyuq manik, niqilu, inuusiq nakuruallaktuaq. Inuvialuit katitait qilalugaq (Delphinapterus leucas (Pallas, 1776)) kivanmun Beaufort qilalugaq suli auyaqmi savaktiit. Sivulliqmi inuinnaq-qulit ukiuqmi mikliyuat tapqua qilalugaq katitait Inuvialuit Aklavik, Northwest Territoriesmi. Una makpiraaq ilisaqtuat anguniaqtuat, iluqatik inuuniarvikmi imaqmilu, tutqaanaittuq qilalugaq katitait. Kisitchiun katitait atugaa inuinnaq-qulit-malruknik apiqsiyuat asulu ilisaqtuat. Taimaagaa takupkagaa imaqmilu allauyuaq, taamna sallirq maqaigaa nuna taamna qilalugaqmun tanmaaq asulu allauyuaq silakluk asiin katitait tutqaanaittuq, akituyuqlu tutqaanaittuq. Taamna allauyuat illisaktuat atautchikun inuuniarvik ila tuquyuat innait asulu ilisimaruat, allauyuat pitqusiqlu ikayuqtuaq katitait qilalugaq. Uvagut taimagaa anguniaqti mikliyuat qilalugaq katitait taimagaa inugiaktut inuuniarvikmi imaqmilu allauyuaq savaktuat tutqaanaittuq asulu katitait ikayuqtuat ila taputiyaa.