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Arctic Ecozone+ Status and Trends Assessment

Ecosystem Goods and Services

Provisioning services

Living space

More so than perhaps any other group in Canada, modern Inuit and Inuvialuit occupy and use huge tracts of land as they travel to neighbouring communities to visit and conduct business and to remote (often traditional) camp sites to hunt, fish, and trap (Damas, 2002). “Travel” in this context means not only travel by dogsled, snow machine, and boat, but also the charter of aircraft to visit, confer with, and exchange goods with friends, relatives, and colleagues in remote communities. Many communities and individual families regularly occupy several traditional hunting, trapping, and fishing camps far from their primary homes for long periods at different seasons. These annual events are important sources of social cohesion. As with the capture and consumption of country foods (see below), use of space is integral to Inuit and Inuvialuit culture and tradition (Condon et al., 1995).

Ice and snow form an important part of this living space. Travel over river, lake, and sea ice provides access to the land for hunting and fishing and the main corridors for regular transport of goods and people over much of the year.

Permafrost is another important component of living space. It provides an unquantifiable service by supporting building structures; when it unexpectedly thaws, structures built on it collapse. Structures such as homes must be insulated to prevent them from thawing the permafrost beneath them, and this is an additional (quantifiable) cost; its presence, however, allows structures to be built on land that otherwise would be unusable for habitation, a definite benefit. The reduction in extent of permafrost and the increase in the depth of annual thawing that may accompany climate change are present risk factors and future threats.

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Detailed, quantitative studies since the early 1970s (Usher, 1976; Berger, 1977) through the 1980s (Gunn et al., 1986) and to the present (Wein et al., 1996; Helander-Renvall, 2005; Inuuvik Community Corporation et al., 2006) show that Inuit and Inuvialuit rely heavily on traditional foods (also called country foods): wild-caught fish and wildlife and collected plants such as berries. Harvest of country foods is not merely a matter of calories and nutrients in a subsistence economy, but a central feature of Inuit and Inuvialuit cultural identity.

Extent and patterns of subsistence activities were included in the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA), an interview-based study of Inuit around the Arctic, conducted in Canada in 2001 in cooperation with Statistics Canada, including all four major Inuit groups, and with a total sample size of 4,700 interviews (Kruse et al., 2009). Results were very consistent across Canadian Inuit groups and show the high rates of participation in fishing and hunting, with far fewer Inuit being active trappers (Figure 97). As shown in Figure 98, participation rates in subsistence activities are higher for people who live outside of major population centres of the Arctic, especially in Western Arctic.

Figure 97. Participation in subsistence activities by region.

Based on the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic, a survey of circumpolar Inuit, a project of the Arctic Council. Percent is of respondents who engaged in the subsistence activity in the 12 month period before the interview (2001). Sample size is 4,700.

Source: Kruse et al. (2009)
Long description for Figure 97

This bar graph shows the following information:

Participation in subsistence activities by region. (Percent)
Hunt caribou, moose or sheep62476359

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Figure 98. Participation in subsistence activities, comparing residents of major population centres with other residents of other areas: (a) Western Arctic and (b) Nunavut.

Based on the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic, a survey of circumpolar Inuit, a project of the Arctic Council. Percent is of respondents who engaged in the subsistence activity in the 12 month period before the interview (2001).

Source: Kruse et al. (2009)
Long description for Figure 98

These two bar graphs shows the following information:

A) Western Arctic
ActivitiesInuvikOther Inuvialuit
hunt caribou, moose or sheep3468
B) Nunavut
ActivitiesIqaluitOther Nunavut
Hunt caribou, moose or sheep5360

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Caribou are an important part of Canadian Arctic cultures and still play a central role in people's lives. A measure of the importance is the annual harvest, which in Nunavut (1996–2001) averaged 24,522 caribou (Priest and Usher, 2004). In the Northwest Territories, Dene, Inuvialuit, Metis, and non-Aboriginal people from almost all communities hunt the migratory herds and the minimum annual harvest is 11,000 caribou, valued as at least $17 million dollars,  including meat replacement and outfitting (Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2006). Assuming an average carcass weight of 45 kg, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut harvest is about 1.6 million kg caribou. At a beef replacement value of $20/kg, the annual average harvest of caribou just for meat replacement is $35 million. This excludes any commercial harvesting or any value for hides, let alone the intangible cultural strength and value of hunting. A study commissioned by the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board estimated the total net economic value of the caribou harvest of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herds at $20.0 million annually (InterGroup Consultants Ltd., 2013). This includes domestic and commercial harvest, less production costs.

Other wild meat, such as muskox (Campbell and Setterington, 2001), beluga whales, waterfowl, and, especially, fish, are important sources of protein and are essential connections to community heritage and traditions.

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