Inflation crisis: Rising food prices in northern Canada have prompted fishermen to seek new food sources

If you think food prices are out of control in your town, try grocery shopping up north.

Record-high inflation has pushed food prices to new heights in communities in Canada’s far north, prompting local fishermen and fishermen to take drastic steps to meet a growing need.

“It’s very expensive – gas, even the prices of fishing gear are going up,” said Komagiak Mitsima, a fisherman in Iqaluit.

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Mitsima grew up hunting for Arctic char, beluga whales and seals in the Sylvia Grinnell River. Whatever they cannot eat themselves, they will share with friends and extended family.

Iqaluit fisherman, Komagiak Mitsima, prepares his net for char fishing in the Arctic.

Jeff Semple/Global News

“Some of them don’t have any Hunters in the family and some of them are old,” he told Global News. “We share a lot. And I’m not the only one – a lot of other Hunters do.”

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But the ancient Inuit tradition of sharing catches is quickly becoming a lifeline for the remote northern city of Mitsima.

Fisherman Komagiak Mitsima Artic char pulls from his net to his boat in the Sylvia Grinnell River. Mitsima now donates a portion of his catch to a local charity.

Jeff Semple/Global News

Long before the current inflationary crisis, Iqaluit was already home to some of the country’s most expensive food. Long, cold winters and short, cold summers produce limited vegetation and food has to be shipped from the south.

There are no roads or railways in Nunavut; Goods can only reach communities by air or — when the Arctic Ocean is melting — by sea, resulting in significant fuel costs and the subsequent sticky shock at local grocery stores.

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Global News recently visited a food market in Iqaluit to find some items selling twice or even three times the national average. A 10-pound bag of potatoes costs approximately $15; Approximately $22 for a kilogram of ground beef. A four-liter milk jug costs more than $8 — $2 more than the national average.

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Global News recently visited a grocery store in Iqaluit where a 4-liter jug ​​of milk costs $8 – $2 more than the national average.

Jeff Semple/Global News

As a result, Mitsima and other fishermen are now donating the excess meat to the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre. The charity launched the Country Food Box earlier this year, which offers donations of frozen meat — from Arctic char to caribou — along with other food items. Compared to last year, demand for food donations in Iqaluit has doubled.

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“So we have to look for other sources,” said Harry Flaherty, president of Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, an Inuit-owned development company.

To that end, Flaherty’s team recently acquired a $2.6 million research vessel to search for new fishing spots ashore. Named Ludy Pudluk, after the territory’s longtime politician and climate change activist who died in 2019, the boat was built with funding from several federal government agencies, including the Northern Canadian Economic Development Agency (also known as CanNor) and the government of Nunavut.

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Qikiqtaaluk recently acquired a $2.6 million research vessel, the Ludy Pudluk, to search for new fishing spots ashore.

Qikiqtaaluk Company

Nunavut covers about 1.9 million square kilometers and makes up about 40 percent of the Canadian coast, but the territory’s coastal fisheries have long been disrupted by small profit margins, inadequate marine infrastructure and a dearth of basic data.

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Hoping to help fill that void, the research vessel is equipped with $1 million in marine research technology, including underwater cameras, a transducer that uses acoustic frequencies to collect data, and cages that can descend to depths of up to 300 metres.

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The research vessel Ludy Pudluk set sail for the first time last year from St. John’s, NL, to map the ocean floor in the Qikiqtani area of ​​Nunavut.

Qikiqtaaluk Company

Combining this cutting-edge technology with traditional knowledge, Ludy Pudluk set sail for the first time last year from St. John’s, NL, to map the ocean floor in the Qikiqtani area of ​​Nunavut, scouring the uncharted sea floor in search of new shore fishing spots.

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“What we saw was incredible,” Flaherty said.

On the sea floor they discovered an abundance of marine life: from sea urchins and sea cucumbers to scallops, shrimp, oysters and cod. Local fishermen have seen this species for years inside the stomachs of whales and seals in the area, but they never knew where they came from.

An underwater camera has discovered an abundance of marine life covering the sea floor in the Qikiqtani area of ​​Nunavut.

Qikiqtaaluk Corp.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” said Jerry Ward, director of fisheries at Qikiqtaaluk Corp. “Although we knew so many species existed, we certainly had no idea or idea about the quantity.”

“It is a tremendous resource. This will add significantly to the diet of various communities.”

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The coordinates will be shared with local communities, so they can be fished sustainably, in the hope of providing a new food source to meet the growing needs. Ward says they are collaborating with local fishermen and fishermen associations and training Inuit in the area to conduct the research themselves, in the hope that the findings will create new food sources as well as new jobs.

“This could be a complete game-changer for the development of inland fisheries.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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