Mr. Speaker, wild fur from the NWT, branded and sold under our Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Label, is world-renowned for its high quality and obtains top prices at auction. Our trappers are experts in proper fur handling and preparation and have earned a reputation as some of the best in their trade.
I would like to congratulate the recipients of this year’s Trappers Awards. These awards include four categories: highest sales, most pelts, and the senior and junior trappers of the year. I would like to recognize the talents of the trappers who received the awards for the highest number of pelts in each region: Mr. Sheldon Boucher in the South Slave, Mr. Jimmy Pierre Mantla in the North Slave, Mr. Mark Kochon in the Sahtu, Mr. Alfred Nande in the Dehcho, and Mr. Jim Elias in the Beaufort Delta. I am also happy to share that this year we have also introduced a Return to Roots Award, which is presented to someone who is reentering the trapping industry. The award recipient has not yet been notified and we look forward to making this presentation at a later date.
This year we also saw the premiere of the reality television series, Fur Harvesters NWT, which followsHay River resident trapper Mr. Andrew Stanley. This series showcases Mr. Stanley’s immense skill and increases awareness and understanding of our traditional economy.
Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes the importance of the traditional economy in contributing to a strong, thriving economy that provides opportunities and jobs for our people. We continue to support this sector by providing support to local trappers through programs and services, like the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program, the Hide Procurement Program and the Take a Kid Trapping and Harvesting Programs.
The Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program offers NWT trappers one-window access to the international fur auction market and ITI works closely with the Fur Harvesters Auction to promote NWT fur.
Over the past year we have seen volatility in some of our major markets around the world, including Russia and the Ukraine. Market instability demonstrates why the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program and marketing service is vital to this sector and that it works as intended by absorbing losses when necessary.
This program consists of three elements to best support trappers.
The Guaranteed Advance ensures trappers have sufficient funds to continue trapping while fur is awaiting sale at auction. ITI provides trappers with advances based on anticipated market performance. If the furs sell for less than the advance at auction, the program absorbs the cost.
The Prime Fur Bonus is an additional payment that trappers receive if their furs sell for more than the advance. It provides an incentive to deliver high quality, well-handled pelts.
Annual grubstakes are provided to defray start-up costs at the beginning of each trapping season. The amount provided to each trapper is determined by the previous year’s pelt numbers. This year, over $100,000 in grubstakes was delivered to eligible trappers in the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, with each passing year the Hide Procurement Program continues to evolve to better support our hardworking trappers. In May, the program was expanded to include muskox hides and qiviut. More recently we have increased the price paid for seal skins from $55 to $70 per skin.
The increased price paid for seal skins is in response to the recommendation in the Economic Opportunities Strategy to expand procurement to support growth in the arts and crafts sector. While the European Union has a ban on seal skins, here in the NWT we cannot keep up with the demand for seal pelts from our talented arts and crafts community.
In order to pass skills and knowledge on to the next generation, we are working to introduce youth to the traditional practices of hunting, trapping, fishing and outdoor survival. The Take a Kid Trapping and Harvesting Programs, offered in partnership with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were developed out of concern that the average age of a trapper/harvester was 60. Today we are proud to say that just over 1,700 students took part in these programs in the 2013/14 fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, our people have a long proud history of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The sustainable harvest of renewable resources for domestic consumption and use is a leading economic activity in the NWT. ITI continues to support and promote excellence in our traditional economy to strengthen and diversify our economy, a priority of this Assembly.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.