NUNAVUT MLA KEEPING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE DECLINING CARIBOU POPULATION GOING

NUNAVUT MLA KEEPING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE DECLINING CARIBOU POPULATION GOING

March 09, 2020 |

NUNAVUT MLA KEEPING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE DECLINING CARIBOU POPULATION GOING

We applaud Nunavut MLA, Cathy Towtongie, for raising the concerns that online meat sales could be having a detrimental effect on caribou populations in the Kivalliq region.

Depicted by Patricia Lightfoot of Nunatsiaq News here, the issue of online meat sales and how it corresponds to Nunavut’s caribou population is brought forward to the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut by MLA Cathy Towtongie.

With the current decline in the caribou population, it is paramount that we review our current legislature to ensure that our laws are still applicable in maintaining a sustainable population. Caribou meat is a cultural staple of the Inuit way of life, therefore, subsistence hunting is important on many levels. It is the online meat sales that are the concern. This is no longer subsistence hunting, as the Inuit have done for generations, and is further pressuring a caribou herd in decline.

As Towtongie describes in the article, she has “seen many caribou carcasses that are just left there. They [hunters] just look for fat on them and if there’s no fat, they leave them out there. That is wrong.`` We also face the issue of illegal wastage of meat in the Kivalliq region. This already illegal act deserves more attention by the relevant authorities.

Of course, we know there are many other contributing factors to the declining caribou populations including habitat destruction, natural cycles, climate change, and more. What we don’t know is which of these factors are the highest contributors. How many animals are harvested each year? What will be the effects of future climate change? As this problem is of utmost importance to the people of Nunavut and their way of life, it should be considered to allocate more funds for research. The research will provide the necessary information so actions can be taken to ensure that caribou herds remain for all to enjoy into the future.

The Qamanirjuaq herd that migrates past Arctic Haven each spring and fall is one of the strongest remaining herds. Although still being down from 480,000 caribou in the 1980s to 288,000 today, they are faring much better than the Bathurst herd to the West that is down from 470,000 in the 1980s to only 8,200 today.

There are many unknowns about this decline, however, it is clear that caribou herds of this size cannot support the entire territory of Nunavut’s subsistence needs. We again support the important step of bringing this conversation to the table.

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