The provincial Department of Environment and Conservation is postponing the opening of the caribou hunting season in Labrador, with no date for when hunting caribou might be allowed again. The season was scheduled to begin Aug. 10.
According to a statement issued by the department, the stability of the George River caribou herd is in question and has led to the change of plans.
“Ongoing research and monitoring efforts by the provincial government and its partners since the 2010 census suggest that a further population decline is occurring, despite major restrictions on harvesting that were implemented last fall,” stated a government news release.
In 2001, the herd’s size was estimated to be 385,000 animals. A census in July 2010 estimated the herd size had dropped to 74,000 animals.
In the latest provincial budget, $1.9 million was allocated for a three-year Labrador Caribou Management Initiative. It involves data collection with regards to the herd to help better understand what might be affecting the population numbers.
“The conservation and protection of the George River caribou herd, as well as all wildlife and habitat in the province, remains a priority for our government and we will delay the opening of the hunting season while we review the valuable input from stakeholders regarding the future management of the herd,” stated Minister of Environment and Conservation, Ross Wiseman, in the province’s notice. “The Labrador Caribou Management Initiative, which includes building on collaborative working relationships already established with stakeholders, will assist us in achieving a sustainable future for this herd. It is the collective responsibility of government, Aboriginal peoples, resident hunters and trappers, outfitters and the public to ensure that its management and use are undertaken in a sustainable and responsible manner."
Minister of Labrador Affairs, John Hickey, has supported the move, saying the provincial government must ensure continue to ensure the implementation of necessary management measures.
“Imposing a delay on the hunting season for the George River herd will provide the necessary time to further analyze data that is continuously being collected relating to the causes of the decline, and help ensure that the long-term future of the herd is supported,” he said.
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Patty Pottle, has said the sustainability of the George River herd is a priority for all Labradorians.
“Caribou have always been vital to Aboriginal culture, customs and traditions. Feedback from all stakeholder groups is an important component in our management of this herd, as well as taking the appropriate time to understand all of the factors surrounding their decline,” she said.
Meanwhile, an update on the hunting season and the management plan for the herd will be provided “as additional information becomes available,” the province has stated. “Any further management action that may be necessary to assist with stabilizing the herd’s decline will be thoroughly analyzed before a final decision is made with respect to future harvests.”
The George River caribou herd migrates between Labrador and Quebec. The 2010 census was conducted on the herd through a partnership with the Government of Quebec, Laval University, the Nunatsiavut Government, Torngat Plant and Wildlife Co-Management Board and the Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research.