skip to primary navigation skip to content

Conservation Hunting, Sustainable Development and Community Values in the Canadian Arctic

Conservation Hunting, Sustainable Development and Community Values in the Canadian Arctic

Conservation Hunting and Sustainable Development

This multidisciplinary research project examines the socio-economic, cultural, regulatory and ethical framework within which conservation hunting, an economically-important sustainable use of wildlife, is practiced in the Canadian Arctic. Conservation hunting, most commonly for polar bear (but also for musk-ox, grizzly bear and caribou) provides many Inuit communities with meaningful employment and a significant source of new income. Conservation hunting is defined as a form of hunting that supports a regulated and sustainable management and conservation regime for the species, and provides social, economic and cultural benefits to local communities engaged in the activity.

The project examines the role of wildlife use and conservation in sustainable development, and defines sustainable development as: development which seeks improved human well-being through the equitable utilization of resources, while protecting cultural distinctiveness and the natural environment for future generations.

Project Objectives

Current concern exists about the observed and projected impacts of environmental changes (including climate warming) on wildlife and the people depending on these renewable resources. This research aims to:

  • Critically assess the conservation and community benefits and challenges associated with conservation hunting,
  • Identify sustainable and socially and economically beneficial community-based conservation practices,
  • Strengthen co-management arrangements and environmental research through better understanding and use of indigenous knowledge,
  • Contribute to culturally-inclusive and equitable northern policy development,
  • Bring conservation hunting more prominently into mainstream conservation thinking,
  • Assist in capacity building, mutual learning and outreach in the Arctic, and
  • Strengthen North-South research partnerships.
Polar bear

Project components

Ethics and community values

Research will focus on Inuit systems of belief governing human-animal interactions and the relationship between subsistence hunting and conservation hunting in the changing Arctic.


Analyse external and endogenous transformations affecting subsistence practices and ideology, modern sharing systems, and community responses to harvest regulations in an economy increasingly dominated by cash.

Policy and legal issues

The project will examine the role of Canadian legal instruments and international agreements that support or constrain the sustainable use and stewardship of wildlife.

Co-management and community-based conservation

In the Canadian Arctic, co-management arrangements utilize Inuit and scientists' knowledge to exercise best custodial practices over wildlife. This project seeks to strengthen co-management and other community-based conservation initiatives.

Traditional and local knowledge

We aim to record Inuit knowledge regarding changes in environmental conditions affecting wildlife, and Inuit observations, values and understanding about polar bears and their total environment.

Polar bears for sport: A critical analysis of the social and economic benefits and costs of conservation (trophy) hunting in the Canadian Arctic

Martina Tyrrell has been awarded a British Academy Small Grant to conduct anthropological research into polar bear conservation and subsistence hunting in one Inuit community. From October to December 2007 she will conduct research in the Nunavut village of Arviat. She will critically analyse the polar bear sport hunt, its role in community life, and the impact it has on relations between Inuit, sport hunters, conservationists, and polar bears. She will work in close collaboration with the two sport hunting outfitters in Arviat - Henik Lake Adventures and Arviat Hunters and Trappers Organisation - as well as the guides, assistants, seamstresses, hoteliers and other who benefit economically from the sport hunt. She will spend time at the hunting lodges, south of the community, in the company of southern (US) sport hunters and Inuit guides, as well as participate in the subsistence hunt which precedes the sport hunt. She will also examine the broader cultural and symbolic roles of polar bears within the community, and examine the ethical or moral debates that exist amongst Inuit with regard to polar bear sport hunting. This research builds on two previous periods of extended fieldwork in Arviat, and a relationship with that village dating back to 2000.

For further information on the broader project, see: .