Published: 17:44 EST, November 21, 2008 (external - login to view)
Over 200 narwhal trapped in Canadian ice
At least 200 narwhal whales in Canada's Arctic, trapped by winter ice that is setting in around them and facing starvation or suffocation, must be culled, officials said Friday.
Hunters from the village of Pond Inlet on Baffin Island discovered the animals trapped near Bylot Island, about 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from Pond Inlet, on November 15, and checked on them periodically.
The local hunters are allowed to harvest only 130 whales each year for food, according to standards set by the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans.
But department spokesman Keith Pelley told AFP: "It's unlikely the animals are going to survive the winter, so the hunters have been given authorization to cull them."
The hunters have been on the ice slaughtering the whales since Thursday and are likely to accomplish their task over the coming days, he said.
Narwhal are found mostly in the Arctic circle, and are renowned for their extraordinarily long tusk, which is actually a twisted incisor tooth that projects from the left side of its upper jaw and can be up to three meters (10 feet) long.
"A couple of weeks ago, when the ice was still moving, there were quite a few narwhal seen out there in the open water," Jayko Allooloo, chairman of the Pond Inlet hunters and trappers organization, told public broadcaster CBC.
"About a week later, they're stuck."
Community elders and officials feared the whales would die from a lack of oxygen as the ice grew thicker around them, Pelley explained.
There are about a dozen areas of open waters where they could come up for air, but it is a tight squeeze for all of them.
© 2008 AFP