Beluga whale stewardship and collaborative research practices among Indigenous peoples in the Arctic

  • Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, Inukjuak, QC, Canada
  • Henry P. Huntington Ocean Conservancy, Eagle River, AK, USA
  • Mark Basterfield Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, Inukjuak, QC, Canada
  • Kiyo Campbell Fisheries Joint Management Committee, Inuvik, NT, Canada
  • Jason Dicker Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada
  • Tom Gray Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, Nome, AK, USA
  • Alfred E.R. Jakobsen Oceans North Greenland, Nuuk, Greenland
  • Frankie Jean-Gagnon Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, Inukjuak, QC, Canada
  • David Lee Department of Wildlife and Environment, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Rodd Laing Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada
  • Lisa Loseto Freshwater Institute, Fisheries and Oceans Canada , Winnipeg, MB, Canada; and Environment and Geography, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • Paul McCarney Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada
  • John Noksana Jr. Fisheries Joint Management Committee, Inuvik, NT, Canada
  • Tommy Palliser Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, Inukjuak, QC, Canada
  • Lawrence Ruben Inuvialuit Game Council, Paulatuk, NT, Canada
  • Clayton Tartak Kivalliq Wildlife Board, Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat, Rankin Inlet, NU, Canada
  • Joseph Townley Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Nunatsiavut Government, Nain, NL, Canada
  • Eduard Zdor University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Keywords: marine mammals, Arctic, co-production of knowledge, wildlife research and management, Delphinapterus leucas


Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) are an integral part of many Arctic Indigenous cultures and contribute to food security for communities from Greenland, across northern Canada and Alaska to Chukotka, Russia. Although the harvesting and stewardship practices of Indigenous peoples vary among regions and have shifted and adapted over time, central principles of respect for beluga and sharing of the harvest have remained steadfast. In addition to intra-community cooperation to harvest, process and use beluga whales, rapid environmental change in the Arctic has underscored the need for inter-regional communication as well as collaboration with scientists and managers to sustain beluga populations and their cultural and nutritional roles in Arctic communities. Our paper, written by the overlapping categories of researchers, hunters, and managers, first provides an overview of beluga hunting and collaborative research in seven regions of the Arctic (Greenland; Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Canada; Alaska; and Chukotka). Then we present a more detailed case study of collaboration, examining a recent research and management project that utilizes co-production of knowledge to address the conservation of a depleted population of beluga in Nunavik, Canada. We conclude that sustaining traditional values, establishing collaborative management efforts, the equitable inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge, and respectful and meaningful collaborations among hunters, researchers and managers are essential to sustaining healthy beluga populations and the peoples who live with and depend upon them in a time of rapid social and environmental change.


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How to Cite
Breton-Honeyman K., Huntington H. P., Basterfield M., Campbell K., Dicker J., Gray T., Jakobsen A. E., Jean-Gagnon F., Lee D., Laing R., Loseto L., McCarney P., Noksana Jr. J., Palliser T., Ruben L., Tartak C., Townley J., & Zdor E. (2021). Beluga whale stewardship and collaborative research practices among Indigenous peoples in the Arctic. Polar Research, 40(S1).