Q 1. Does the NWMB manage only wildlife in Nunavut?

Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA), the NWMB is responsible for the management of all wildlife in Nunavut. Wildlife is defined in the Agreement as all land and marine mammals, birds, fish, and plants in Nunavut.

Q 2. What kinds of animals live in Nunavut?

Barren-ground caribou, muskoxen, barren ground grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, arctic and red foxes, weasels, lemmings and arctic hare are among our most common land mammals. Nunavut is also home to polar bears, ringed, harp, bearded, hooded, and harbor  seals, walruses, and several types of arctic whales: belugas, narwhals, bowheads, and to a lesser degree, killer whales, minke whales, humpback whales, blue whales and sperm whales. We have gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons, ptarmigans, several species of geese, tundra swans, snowy owls, and many species of ducks, terns, murres, black guillemots and many other species of birds. Arctic char is probably the most common and most well-known fish species, but there are also lake trout, northern pike, arctic grayling, whitefish, burbot, arctic cod, and turbot in Nunavut waters.  Click here to be directed to our publications section which features books on a wide variety of arctic wildlife.

Q 3. Does the NWMB set harvesting quotas?

Part of our responsibilities under the NLCA is to establish, modify or remove total allowable harvest (TAH) in Nunavut – either by setting new TAHs, removing those that are no longer needed, or changing existing TAHs.  The NWMB also sets other, non-quota limitations on harvest, if necessary, which include such things as hunting seasons and restrictions on the type of gear that may be used to harvest a particular wildlife species.

Q 4. Why is hunting so important in Nunavut?

Inuit have always hunted and fished to survive. They searched for caribou inland in fall and winter, and returned to the coast in the summer to harvest marine mammals (seals, walrus and whales). Inuit were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle in the 1950s and 1960s when the federal government settled them in permanent communities in order to administer government services. However, country food from the land is still an essential part of the diet and culture of most Inuit in Nunavut.

Q 5. Is the NWMB part of the Government of Nunavut, or the Government of Canada?

Neither. While we are funded by the federal government, the NWMB is an Institution of Public Government (IPG) - a public body created under the NLCA that takes its instruction from the NLCA. We are part of the overall public government of Nunavut, but we are separate from the federal and territorial governments.

Q 6. What is the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement?

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is an agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area (then the Government of the Northwest Territories) and the Government of Canada. The agreement, which is the largest land claim settlement in Canadian history, was signed on  July 9, 1993 and provided the foundation for the new territory of Nunavut.  The NLCA gives title to 350,000 square kilometers of land to Inuit and designated jurisdiction over wildlife management, land use planning and development, property taxation, and natural resource management to the territory of Nunavut.

Q 7. How are decisions made by the NWMB?

Issues are brought to the NWMB for decision from federal and territorial governments, Regional Wildlife Organizations, Hunters and Trappers Organizations, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.  Through scientific research, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, consultations, and public and written hearings the best available information surrounding any particular information is presented to the Board, and is normally accompanied by a management recommendation, or proposed solution.  This information is given thorough consideration by Board members before they make their decision.  The decision of the Board is then forwarded to the appropriate federal or territorial Minister for approval.  If the Board’s decision is accepted, it is implemented by the responsible department: it is the government that carries out NWMB decisions, once they are made.   If the decision is rejected, the NWMB has to reconsider their decision in light of the reasons provided in the Minister’s response letter.  Click here to see a diagram of the decision process.

Q 8. What is meant by the terms Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)?

TEK refers to Inuit knowledge about wildlife and the environment, learned through personal experiences and those of others, often including traditions handed down through the generations (Usher 1999).  Usher (1999) proposes four categories of TEK:

  1. Factual knowledge about the natural world, including weather, sea and  ice conditions, animal behaviour and biology.
  2. Factual knowledge about current and historic use of the natural world, including land use patterns, and harvest levels.
  3. Culturally based statements about how things should be, including moral or ethical accounts about how to behave with respect to wildlife and the environment.
  4. The knowledge system underlying the first three categories, providing explanations and guidance as to why things are the way they are, providing context for the outcomes of the first two categories.

IQ has been defined as encompassing “…all aspects of traditional Inuit culture including values, world-view, language, social organization, knowledge, life skills, perceptions, and expectations” (NSDC, 1998).  Wenzel et al. (2008) clarify that IQ comprises not only the components of TEK, but also includes knowledge concerning “how the world works and how to behave so that practical knowledge can translate into successful ecological activity”.  As such, IQ can be said to include world views, values, information on social organization, perceptions, languages, and life skills. A simple way of defining the relationship between TEK and IQ, as explained by Wenzel et al. (2008) is that TEK is part of IQ, but not all of it – the whole of IQ is greater than the sum of its TEK parts.  For a more complete picture of the guiding principles of IQ, and how it relates to the management of wildlife in Nunavut, refer to the Nunavut Wildlife Act.


  • Nunavut Social Development Council (NSDC). 1998.  Report of the Nunavut Traditional Knowledge Conference.  Igloolik.  March 20-24.
  • Usher, P. 1999.  Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Environmental Assessment and Management.  Arctic.  53:2.
  • Wenzel, G., F. Weihs, G. Rigby.  2008.  The Use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in the Management of Wildlife in Nunvaut: A Critical Review.  A report for the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.

Q 9. How does the NWMB incorporate TEK/IQ in wildlife management?

The NWMB is mandated, under the Nunavut Wildlife Act, to incorporate the principles of IQ when carrying out its functions as indicated in the NLCA.  Concerning the decision making process, gathering the best available information on a wildlife management issue often involves conducting community consultations or holding public hearings.  The local Hunters’ and Trappers’ Associations are also asked for their input, and to provide a letter of support to the agency or organization submitting an issue to the NWMB for decision.  In this way, Inuit hunters, elders, and other community members are given the opportunity to provide traditional knowledge and personal observations about the subject at hand for consideration by the Board.

Q 10. How does the NWMB incorporate western science into wildlife management?

Any available western scientific information, often in the form of output from ecological models and statistical analyses produced by government agencies, is included in the information presented to the Board for consideration when making their decision.

Q 11. What role does the NWMB play in federal species-at-risk act listings?

Any movement, territorial or federal, to list or modify a current listing of a species or population of wildlife found within Nunavut must be approved through a decision by the NWMB.  As with the other facets of the NWMB’s decision process, all the best available information is presented to the Board for consideration and the decision is forwarded to the appropriate Minister for approval.  The process is conducted in accordance with the  Memorandum of Understanding to Harmonize the Designation of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the listing of Wildlife Species at Risk under the Species at Risk Act.

Q 12. How are inter-jurisdictional populations and/or shared stocks managed in Nunavut?

The NWMB, its co-managers, Regional Wildlife Organizations, and Hunters and Trappers Organizations have established Memoranda of Understanding with other provinces and territories to cooperatively manage populations of wildlife that transcend provincial and territorial boundaries.  For example, agreements are in place to aide in the effective management of certain caribou herds that migrate seasonally across political borders.   The NWMB is also involved in developing working relationships with international wildlife management authorities to ensure conservation of shared stocks.  Examples of this type of situation would be the Kane Basin and Baffin Bay polar bear subpopulations, which move freely across the sea ice between Nunavut and western Greenland, and the management of shrimp and turbot stocks that are in international waters.


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