The chief of an Innu community in Quebec says his people will continue to hunt George River caribou until there is one animal for every household.
Real McKenzie, chief of the Innu community in Matimekush-Lac-John, said he wants proof that the herd's numbers are actually at an all-time low, as claimed by biologists and the Newfoundland and Labrador government, which has imposed a five-year hunting moratorium in its territory.The herd moves between the two provinces.
Quebec Innu have hunted in Labrador over the years, despite warnings from the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
Quebec Innu harvested 230 animals from the George River herd just three days before the Newfoundland and Labrador ban was announced.
McKenzie said the move was not out of line.
"We are feeding our people," he said.
"We will not commercialize that animal. We eat it, caribou, for families, that's all."
The latest count of the George River herd has put the number of animals below 20,000, a decline of more than 70 per cent since July 2010, and just a small fraction of 385,000 animals counted in 2001.
McKenzie, who is skeptical of the latest count, wants one caribou per household for his community of about 900 people.
The Labrador Innu also rejected the province's ban on caribou hunting, but set some guidelines for hunters to follow.
Deputy Grand Chief Jeremy Andrew said hunters are only allowed to take 300 male caribou from now until April.
"The Innu Nation and the band councils will be monitoring it. We will have our own wildlife officers, our guardians, monitoring the hunt and it’s not just anybody that can go hunting," he said.
"It's going to be pretty strictly enforced."
Both Innu groups are expecting to face resistance from Newfoundland and Labrador wildlife officers.