Hunters in Coral Harbour will meet this week over concerns the Southhampton Island caribou population may be being overharvested to meet Baffin Island’s demand for caribou meat.
Some Baffin Island communities have been having trouble finding caribou, which has led them to rely on hunters in other parts of Nunavut to supply them with meat. However, the growing trade is putting pressure on the caribou of Southampton Island and causing concerns for some people in Coral Harbour.
" Up till 2009 the indications were that the population was declining," said Mitch Campbell, a wildlife biologist with the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Environment. "Can the population still sustain a large harvest? The answer to that is no, it can’t, and the shipping of meat may have a negative impact."
A local air cargo company says 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of caribou meat is being shipped from Coral Harbour to communities on Baffin Island every other day. Social networking sites are making it easier for people to buy and sell country food from far away and cargo rates for country food are heavily discounted within Nunavut.
Paul Irngaut, the wildlife communications adviser at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., said under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Inuit hunters have the right to dispose freely of any wildlife that’s lawfully harvested.
"They can either sell it, barter, or give it away," he said.
Noah Kadlak, chair of Coral Harbour’s Aiviit Hunters and Trappers Organization, said he understands that selling caribou meat is a source of income for many but the business needs to be done in a sustainable manner.
It is the HTO's responsibility to monitor the number of caribou being hunted on the island, and a meeting is scheduled this week to talk about possible solutions with hunters in the community. The Government of Nunavut has said it will support whatever the HTO decides.