Marralik-Ungunniavik Project

Marralik-Ungunniavik Project2021-present

Marralik-Ungunniavik estuary is an important beluga area in Nunavik and one of the few traditional beluga harvesting sites that is near to Kangiqsualujjuaq. It has been closed to harvesting since 1986 due to concerns regarding the Ungava Bay stock, but was recently opened to a small harvest upon approval of a hunt plan. The area’s closure has had important impacts on Inuit food security, intergenerational knowledge transfer, traditional practices such as food sharing, information regarding the belugas that travel there, and relationships with management bodies. Since hunting was not permitted, genetic samples were not collected and Inuit travel to that area was reduced, thus very little information is known about belugas there.

In 2021, we initiated a multi-year intergenerational knowledge-sharing opportunity that combines together a youth camp and research project. The main research goal of this camp is to document Inuit knowledge about the area and produce new scientific data to determine the genetics, number of belugas, timing of their arrival, and length of their stay in the estuary. This information is collected with the intention of supplying management bodies with enough information, including Inuit knowledge, for them to make an informed decision about the closure for future management plans and to empower Inuit through self-determination in research. The project will combine data from passive acoustic recorders, land-based and boat-based observations, eDNA samples, and interviews with traditional knowledge holders to fill current knowledge gaps. This entire project is centered on knowledge transmission to youth. Youth who attend camp learn respectful harvesting, food preparation, research techniques, wildlife management structure, and survival skills, in addition to hearing elders share knowledge and stories from their childhood.