Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador Innu offer to help N.L save caribou

The grand chief of the Innu Nation in Labrador says his members could help the provincial government communicate with Innu from Quebec who hunt caribou in Labrador.

Labrador chief says his people can help deal with Quebec Innu hunters

The grand chief of the Innu Nation in Labrador says his members could help the provincial government communicate with Innu from Quebec who hunt caribou in Labrador.

During the past couple of winters, Quebec Innu hunters have been accused of killing many animals from endangered herds in the area.

"We can engage with Quebec hunters coming in, using the Innu language because they only speak French and they only speak Innu. So if a non-Innu officer goes, approaches them, they could be possibly a misunderstanding … very great misunderstanding," said Labrador Innu Chief Joseph Rich.

The latest census of the George River caribou herd shows a 90 per cent drop since the early 1990s.

Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Minister Charlene Johnson said last Wednesday a new count of the George River herd found there are 74,131 animals. The herd had 776,000 in a 1993 census, while a 2001 estimate was 385,000.

Rich said Innu elders are not surprised by that drop. He said they have been warning for many years that the area's caribou population is in decline.

There are also concerns about a specific herd of woodland caribou in the area, known as the Red Wine herd. Wildlife researchers say that herd's population has dropped below 75 animals.

Last week, the provincial government said it will not allow commercial hunting of the George River herd in Labrador in response to concerns about the herd's dwindling numbers.

The new rules also prohibit the transfer of caribou-hunting licences — which allowed a holder to arrange for someone to hunt on his or her behalf — and barred out-of-province individuals from participating in the hunt.

As well, non-aboriginal Labrador residents have been limited to one caribou each. Aboriginal hunters are allowed to hunt as they wish.