The provincial government is implementing a five-year ban on hunting the George River caribou herd.
Environment and Conservation Minister Tom Hedderson told reporters that the herd has dwindled down to less than 20,000 animals.
In July 20,000, government estimated there were more than 70,000 caribou in the herd, and in the late 1980s there were approximately 800,000.
Both Hedderson and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Felix Collins said the ban was a necessary move.
Collins said meetings with aboriginal groups have been held over several weeks on the matter.
Justice Minister Darin King said fish and wildlife officers will be on the ground to monitor the situations. Vehicles and helicopter may also be used if needed, and the minister said a plan is in place to deal with large groups who choose to not obey the ban.
There are concerns the Innu Nation is not willing to comply with the ban. Hedderson said Labrador MHA Nick McGrath had two recent conversations with its leader concerning the ban.
Hedderson said government is looking at alternative options for food sources I light of the ban.
For more on this story, read Tuesday's edition of The Telegram.
The continuing decline of the George River caribou herd has prompted the provincial government to initiate an immediate ban on all caribou hunting in Labrador for conservation purposes for a period of five years, with a review after two years.
Recent census results, as well as biological information gathered and ongoing population modeling, indicate the herd currently stands at less than 20,000 caribou, representing a decline of more than 70 per cent since the July 2010 estimate of 74,000.
“The George River herd continues to experience a very serious decline and strong action is required by our government to address the immediate and long-term protection of this important resource,” Tom Hedderson, minister of environment and conservation, told reporters today at Confederation Building.
“Our first priority is conservation of these animals, and that is why we are imposing a total ban on this herd. George River caribou have shown a continued steep decline in the latest survey results, and a continued harvest is simply not sustainable at this point in time," Hedderson said. "The goal of today’s decision is central to all people of Labrador to help ensure that the George River caribou will be here for future generations. Given the biological information that we have, we must do our part and work together to ensure the herd’s existence.”
Hedderson was joined at the news conference by Felix Collins, minister of intergovernmental and Aboriginal affairs and the Justice Minister Darin King.
While migratory caribou populations are known to cycle naturally over a period of 50 to 70 years, the cause of the current and continued decline of the George River caribou herd is not clear. Information acquired through the province’s ongoing Caribou Health Monitoring Program indicate low pregnancy rates, and tracking of radio-collared caribou continues to suggest high adult mortality, estimated at approximately 30 per cent annually.
For full story, see Tuesday's Telegram