Inuits need cash for freezers in warming Arctic

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Inuit communities need funds to adapt to climate change in the Arctic, including measures to build communal deep freezers to store game because warming is reducing their hunting season, an Inuit leader said on Friday.

The Inuit, the indigenous people of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia, have traditionally hunted for Arctic species from seal to polar bear, whale to caribou.

“In Canada we see climate changes on a day to day basis,” said Violet Ford, a Canadian official of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).

Ford, who was born and raised in the Inuit community of Makkovik, Labrador, said more funds are needed for adaptation and response to climate change in the Arctic and in developing countries.

“That should also be going to the Inuit communities as a response to climate change,” Ford told a news conference in the Danish capital where 190 governments are gathered for U.N. talks on a new global climate deal.

“We need infrastructure,” Ford said. “We want community deep freezers if the hunting patterns change so much that we can only go hunting a few times a year.”

ICC chairman James Stotts from Barrow Alaska told the news conference that his 78-year-old uncle fell through the ice and froze to death at a time of year when the ice normally would be thick and safe.

“Inuits have to find other ways to store their meat. Some of our villages are literally falling into the seas because of erosion,” he said.

Stotts said he hoped governments gathered for the December 7-18 U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen would come up with a “real deal...something that really will work.”

Greenland Inuit Aqqaluk Lynge, ICC vice chairman, said that the ice cap is melting much faster than before, which would raise ocean levels, reduce winter ice and threaten the Inuit way of life.

“The hunters’ area is very large ... they drive around on dog sledges, but for us the dog sledges are disappearing,” Lynge said.

“That part of the culture is disappearing. We are paying for the changes already in many ways.”

Reporting by Henriette Jacobsen; Writing by John Acher