A new conservation plan aimed at saving a dwindling caribou herd in Labrador will have devastating consequences, outfitters say.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government this week cancelled the commercial hunt of the George River herd, after a new census showed that its population had dropped by more than 90 per cent in 17 years.
"I was devastated. To see it come so sudden and so blunt — for us, it's quite harsh," said Gary Travers, whose company Labrador Caribou Outfitters has depended on the annual hunt.
"I knew [there] was something coming up, [but] I didn't think the changes were going to be this drastic."
Travis said he will need to cancel nearly 50 bookings.
Environment and Conservation Minister Charlene Johnson has also halted the transfer of licences — which allowed a holder to arrange for someone to hunt on their behalf — and cancelled the ability of out-of-province individuals to participate in the hunt. As well, non-aboriginal Labradorians have been limited to one caribou each. Aboriginal hunters are allowed to hunt as they wish.
Those rules will also have an impact, said Happy Valley-Goose Bay hunter Hollis Yetman.
"We usually harvest two caribou per year for our own consumption. I usually get a caribou for my parents who don't hunt and have lived in Labrador their entire lives, [as] third-generation Labradorians," Yetman said.
Johnson said government needed to take strong action on the hunt. The latest count put the George River herd at 74,131 animals, down steadily since a 1993 count of 776,000 caribou.