Southampton caribou quota could be cut to 800

The first ever caribou quota for Inuit in Nunavut began in 2012 and was extended to 2014. Now people in Coral Harbour could see their quota cut from 1,000 animals to just 800.
Nunavut government biologists say they’re worried about the long term health of the Southampton Island caribou herd. They want to cut the quota from 1,000 to 800 animals, but Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is questioning the government’s harvest numbers.

The Nunavut government wants the total allowable harvest for Southampton Island caribou to drop from 1,000 to 800 animals.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board recently held public hearings on the issue in Iqaluit and Coral Harbour, which is on Southampton Island.

“The board will decide when all the information is in and there is no more information to take from the public and organizations and departments,” says Ben Kovic, who chairs the NWMB. “Then the board will sit down and decide from there and we'll try to get the population in good shape. The community is willing to do it and we'll help them to achieve that."

A quota of 1,000 animals was first imposed on the Southampton caribou in 2012. It was the first caribou quota for Inuit in Nunavut, and earlier this year, it was extended for another year.

Nunavut government biologists say the Southampton caribou numbers have dropped from 30,000 in 1997 to fewer than 8,000 in 2011.

The trade in caribou meat to other parts of the territory may be part of the problem.

Government biologists also blame brucellosis, and say they're worried about the long term survival of the herd.

Caribou have been wiped out on Southampton Island before - in the 1950s. Animals were later moved from nearby Coats Island, to re-populate Southampton.    

Despite the government's concerns, Nunavut Tunngavik questions the current harvest numbers and how the government calculated the Inuit basic needs level.

"When we asked the Government of Nunavut for their position on it, they couldn't tell us whether they support the inclusion of commercial harvest or not,” says Glenn Williams, a wildlife advisor with NTI.

In the past, Coral Harbour has held commercial hunts of caribou, using a portable abattoir to prepare the meat for export to Kivalliq Foods in Rankin Inlet.

The NWMB says it hopes to receive more information from the government, then make a decision on the quota by March. That decision will go to the federal Environment minister, who can either accept or reject it.

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