01/12/2015 03:15 EST | Updated 03/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Leona Aglukkaq Announces $7M For Arctic Fisheries Research


IQALUIT, Nunavut - Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has announced funding of more than $7 million for research on new and developing fisheries in the Arctic.

Just over half the money is to come from Ottawa. The Nunavut government, Inuit groups and universities are to provide the rest.

Much of the money is to be spent over the next two years on Nunavut's turbot fishery, which is worth about $65 million a year. Scientists are to consider how existing turbot harvests can be expanded and whether new locations can be added. They will also do surveys to help with managing the stock.

Surveys and sustainability research are also to be done on northern shrimp, Nunavut's second-richest catch.

Researchers will also consider whether to allow a commercial clam industry near Qikiqtarjuaq, along the east coast of Baffin Island, where Inuit have long harvested the shellfish along the sea bottom under the ice. Scientists will also look at whether Nunavut's small Arctic char fishery can be expanded.

Canada has been accused in the past of expanding its Arctic fishery without understanding very much about it.

Researchers at Newfoundland's Memorial University concluded in 2013 that some vessels are already harvesting too many small fish in violation of federal guidelines.

Fishing has become one of Nunavut's success stories. An industry worth about $35 million in 2006 brought in about $79 million worth of fish in 2013.

The total allowable catch has also been increasing.

In 2013, the turbot quota for the northeast coast of Baffin Island was increased to 8,000 tonnes from 6,500 tonnes. In 2010, the limit in the southern Davis Strait was raised 27 per cent to 7,000 tonnes.

New vessels have entered the industry and there are now four Inuit-owned companies involved in the turbot fishery off Baffin Island.

There is no commercial fishery in central Arctic waters as yet, although some believe climate change will create opportunities. Last February, Canada and four other Arctic nations agreed to work toward a deal to block commercial fishing there until more is known about the potential of the resource.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

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