Outfitters optimistic about improving fortunes

Outfitting in Newfoundland and Labrador hasn't always been the easiest business, but it is now a growing industry.
Outfitters meet to discuss future of industry, reports Jeremy Eaton 1:49

Outfitting in Newfoundland and Labrador hasn't always been the easiest business, but it is now a growing industry.

Ron Hicks, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association, says outfitting was a struggling industry for some time.

"Over the last few years, globally, the economic turn down, we were hit really hard with that," Hicks said.

With the 2008 global recession, outfitters in province noticed the decline in the number of American clients.

However, Hicks said things have started to look up.

"The pendulum is starting to swing in a good direction," he said. "We've had pretty much a decade of challenges.

"And when I say challenges, I don't mean just little things — it's very severe impacts."

A major concern within the industry is the maintenance of the moose population.

The provincial government is currently working on a 5-year moose management plan for Newfoundland.

"We all need to think about this a little more thoroughly and put a good, balanced management plan in place," Hicks said. "Which I know they are working towards now."

Researchers and presenters will be sharing their findings concerning animal populations, such as moose and caribou, during the meeting.

Hicks said that sales are up for 2012, and prospects for 2013 are already looking good.

"We've been around a long time, we are the oldest form of tourism in the province," Hicks said.

"The key thing is, I say, resources."

The convention and general meeting will continue through this week at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

George River caribou herd at all-time low

While outfitting's popularity is on the rise, the number of caribou to hunt is steadily diminishing.

Environment and Conservation Minister Tom Hedderson says this year's caribou population is 22,000.

In the 1990's, the population was somewhere around half a million.

"With that information … we're going to bring forward management measures this season, and of course for long term as well," Hedderson said.

He said there are many factors contributing to the decreasing population, not just hunting.

"We have to take into account all of the factors," Hedderson said. "The accessibility of food is a major, major contributing factor. Predation, disease, parasites, climate change."

During last year's caribou hunt, 2,300 animals were legally killed.

"We're going to have to look at all aspects of the hunt this year as a factor," Hedderson said.

On Wednesday, the Labrador Hunting Association called for a ban on hunting caribou until the herd shows signs of recovering.

Tony Chubbs, the president of the association, said that such a ban would need to include both aboriginal and non-aboriginal hunters.

"22 per cent of those animals were killed by licensed hunters," Chubbs said. "The rest of the aboriginal hunt accounted for 66 per cent.

"Unless aboriginal hunt is curtailed as well, it's pretty much meaningless to imply any sort of restrictions."

The province has yet to release its hunt plan for this year.