The Canada-Greenland Joint Commission on Beluga and Narwhal (hereafter “Commission”) was established in 1991 under terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Fisheries and Hunting of the Greenland Home Rule Government.  The MOU applies to stocks of narwhal and beluga that migrate between Canadian and Greenlandic waters.   The Commission was established to responsibly manage the shared stocks of narwhal and beluga.

Functions of the Commission

The Commission reviews reports from meetings of the Joint Commission on Beluga and Narwhal and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) scientific working groups, including estimates of current population size and trends, stock definition, current and historical harvest and other impacts. 

Based on these reviews, the Commission’s Scientific Working Group provides advice on narwhal and beluga research and monitoring needs, and the Commission makes recommendations, on the conservation and management of narwhal and beluga, to the appropriate authorities of both countries.

Structure of the Commission

The Commission is comprised of three working groups.  Each working group is made up of experts in the relevant field, who come together to provide advice and recommendations on how to effectively and cooperatively ensure responsible management of shared narwhal and beluga stocks.

Scientific Working Group

The Scientific Working Group proposes target population levels and recommends total allowable harvests for narwhal and beluga based on the best available scientific information. In addition, the Working Group provides advice concerning monitoring changing polar bear habitat conditions. Their findings and relevant advice are compiled into reports for consideration by the Commission.

Traditional Knowledge Working Group

The traditional knowledge working group is tasked with proposing target population levels and advising on total allowable harvests based on the best available traditional knowledge.  The Working Group also collects traditional knowledge pertaining to polar bear habitat conditions.  Like the Scientific Working Group, their findings and recommendations are presented to the Commission for consideration.

User to User Working Group

The primary tasks of the User to User Working Group include providing recommendations as to the allocation of total allowable harvest between Canada and Greenland, as well as collecting and compiling information concerning climate change, sea ice conditions, trophy hunting, and human-polar bear interactions.

Commission Meetings

Meetings are held once every two years and alternate between Canada and Greenland.  Meetings are normally attended by members of the Scientific Working Group, marine mammal advisors and hunters from both Canada and Greenland.   Other co-management bodies, such as Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) have also been invited to participate in meetings.

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