Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne announced significant changes to the provincial Wildlife Act and Regulations on Friday.
The modifications are aimed to support inclusion, improve access and increase participation in hunting throughout the province.
Taking effect immediately, the minimum age requirement to shoot small game, coyotes and other furbearers has been lowered from 16 to 12 while the requirement to shoot big game has been lowered from 18 to 16. Youth hunters can only use a firearm under supervision of a qualified adult.
Several changes to the Program for Hunters and Anglers with a Disability have also been made. They include:
- A designated hunter can remain within 800 metres or line of sight, whichever is greater, of the person with a disability. This regulation takes effect immediately;
- Restructuring the Problem Moose Policy for the 2018-19 hunting season to give priority access to big game for persons with disabilities not able to complete the Firearm Safety-Hunter Education Program; and
- Development of a new policy to provide persons with disabilities priority access to moose put down by conservation officers for humane or public safety reasons.
Earlier big game draw application dates will also be in effect for the 2018-19 big game hunting season to provide hunters and trappers with greater lead time to adequately plan for hunting and trapping activities.
Representatives of several provincial hunting and trapping organizations and the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities - Newfoundland and Labrador were also on hand to the announcement in Corner Brook.
"We are pleased to see inclusive amendments being made to better engage hunters with disabilities to full participation in such an important and culturally specific activity in our province,” Emily Christy, the coalition’s executive director, said in a news release.
“We hope to see more persons with disabilities who have not been given the opportunity to hunt previously now able to take part, thanks to these changes.”
Byrne said the new regulations give persons with disabilities in the province several options to participate in hunting and have access to big game.
“The amendments also align our minimum hunting age requirements with other jurisdictions in Canada while encouraging greater interest in hunting and responsible firearm use among youth hunters.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Hunters and Anglers president Barry Fordham called the announcement “a great day for the outdoor youth of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“My main objective when I began this lobby was to share and teach the sport and honourable traditions of hunting to my son, the same as all other Canadian parents and their youth,” he said.
“By enacting this change, we will begin to see a positive change with respect to ethics, responsibility, conservation, and public safety in our outdoor world.”