A George River caribou appears to pose for the camera. - File photo by David Elliot
For the first time in 40 years, fresh caribou from the George River herd is off the menu for members of the NunatuKavut Community Council.
In a statement issued midday by council leaders, the aboriginal group based in Southern Labrador announced it would be shelving any hunting of the herd for a period of at least one year in the name of conservation.
The George River caribou have rapidly declined from a population of about 800,000 to fewer than 30,000 in about a decade.
The provincial government has been studying the decline and taking measures to protect the population, including suspending any issuance of hunting licences. The Government of Nunatsiavut has followed suit. Now, the NunatuKavut Community Council — without a settled claim, but with an asserted claim in the area — are also instituting a prohibition on caribou hunting.
The council has stated it will not issue permits for a year. The measure will be reviewed annually, in consultation with NunatuKavut hunters and elders. The notice issued by the council attempts to explain the significance of the caribou hunt to people in the area.
“We — my family — are hunters and trappers and I always grew up with the knowledge and understanding that it was my right and privilege to use this resource for the benefit of my family and community,” said NunuatuKavut Community Council board member Roxanne Notley.
“I totally respect how difficult it has been to agree on no-hunting for a year, but I think our future generation will thank us for the sacrifice we make today.”
Council vice-president, and hunter, Jim Holwell stated it will be the first time in 40 years he will be unable to hunt caribou — considered an important tradition as well as a right by council members.
“I do believe we have to take these steps to help protect what is left of the George River caribou,” Holwell said.
NunatuKavut Community Council president Todd Russell said he feels there has been mismanagement of the herd historically. He said he feels aboriginal people should set the direction of work dealing with the herds, with the provincial government playing a supporting role.
Meanwhile, “the NunatuKavut Community Council is joining the Nunatsiavut Government in respectfully asking other aboriginal groups to suspend their harvests of the herd as well,” reads the statement.