The latest count of the George River caribou herd shows it has declined by more than 90 per cent in less than 20 years. ((CBC) )

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is dramatically restricting hunting in a Labrador caribou herd that is now less than 10 per cent of its size from two decades ago.

Environment Minister Charlene Johnson disclosed that a new count of the George River herd shows 74,131 animals. The herd had 776,000 caribou in a 1993 census, while a 2001 estimate put it at 385,000 animals.

"The numbers tell us [that] we really need to make significant changes," Johnson told CBC News.

The government announced Tuesday it has abolished the commercial hunt and is forbidding outfitters from taking non-resident hunters on trips to the herd.

As well, a caribou licence transfer program for Labrador residents — which allowed a licence holder to arrange for someone else to hunt the animal — has been suspended.

Licensed hunters will be allowed to kill one animal instead of the current limit of two.

The changes, however, do not apply to Labrador's aboriginal hunters, who can continue to hunt without restriction.

"We can not limit the number of animals they harvest or the time of year or so on," said Johnson, who cited the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the reason for the exemption.