Inuit of southern Labrador continue moratorium on caribou hunting
George River herd went from 800,000 to 20,000 animals in 10 years
As South Baffin residents grapple with dwindling caribou populations, southern Labrador Inuit have decided, for the second year running, to suspend their caribou harvest.
The NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), which represents the southern Inuit of Labrador, issued a news release Jan. 20 saying they reviewed their 2012 moratorium on hunting the George River caribou herd and decided to extend it another year.
“Based on traditional knowledge and outside sources, NCC feels that continuing a moratorium is in the best interest of the George River caribou herd,” said NCC vice-president Jim Holwell, in the news release.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but we need to help preserve what is left of these animals if they are going to be there for us and our future generations.”
NunatuKavut represent a group of Inuit and Metis outside of the Nunatsiavut settlement area in Labrador who reside in several southern coastal communities including Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Cartwright and North West River.
Like many aboriginal people in northern regions of Canada, Holwell has been hunting caribou all his life but the rapid decline in their population has many southern Inuit in Labrador very concerned.
The George River herd had about 800,000 animals 10 years ago but current estimates peg the number at only 20,000.
“Hunting is a tradition and aboriginal right for the southern Inuit group,” the news release said.
“Caribou has been a mainstay in their diet and culture and the practices and knowledge have been passed down from generation to generation but the NCC felt it had to take measures to protect what is left of the George River caribou herd.”
Nunavut Government and land claim organizations are currently holding consultations in Baffin communities to address a similar problem in South Baffin which has seen a sharp decline in caribou numbers.
Those Nunavut consultations began in Iqaluit Jan. 18 and continue this week in other Baffin communities.