Nfld. & Labrador

Don't rush to brand 2 caribou herds endangered, warns Nunatsiavut government

Minister Darryl Shiwak says the tools are already in place to protect the species.

It would add 'another layer of bureaucracy,' says one minister

The Nunatsiavut government says the George River caribou herd is starting to stabilize. (CBC)

The province should not classify the George River and Torngat Mountains caribou herds as endangered, according to the Nunatsiavut government.

"If you list it as endangered it adds another layer of bureaucracy," said Lands and Natural Resources Minister Darryl Shiwak.

Shiwak is urging the Newfoundland and Labrador government to reject the recommendations of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

The advisory panel, which reports to the federal department of climate change, meets twice a year to consider the status of species at risk of extinction.

Shiwak argues COSEWIC used outdated information in its recommendation that the two herds should be classified as endangered.

"The George [River herd] was in a period of very, very steep decline" when the assessment was done, said Shiwak.

Nunatsiavut Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Darryl Shiwak says the provincial government should approve a land use plan submitted by his government. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

"The latest information we have from the province is that calf recruitment is showing positive signs and adult recovery is showing positive signs. With the herd itself it looks like its beginning to stabilize a bit more," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

Give us time, Shiwak says

Shiwak said classifying the two herds as endangered would amount to a rush to judgment.

"For us, for the Nunatsiavut government, we've proposed a land use plan ... and within that land use plan there are measures for the George River caribous to recover, like a protected calving area and other things," said Shiwak. 

"So we're waiting for the provincial government to approve the plan."

Shiwak said another reason why an endangered classification would be jumping the gun is because Indigenous groups are already working together on the issue. 

He pointed to the Ungava Peninsula Caribou Aboriginal Round Table (UPCART) — the "historic agreement" signed last October with seven Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec that are committed to finding a solution.

"How do we get those numbers back up to a place where the herd is healthy? It's going to be there for generations to come," he said. 

The provincial Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, Gerry Byrne, says talks with Indigenous groups have been going on since December. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne would not do an interview on the issue with CBC and instead emailed a statement.

"The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, in collaboration with our Labrador and Indigenous Affairs Secretariat, initiated consultations in early December with Indigenous communities and governments. Officials continue to meet and discuss the [COSEWIC] recommendations and potential listings," it reads.

For Shiwak, he is asking for time and patience.

"We just feel that the province and Indigenous people have the tools in place right now to ensure the recovery of the herd without having to go through that extra step," he said. 

With files from Labrador Morning