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Increase in caribou harvest for Baffin region to continue for next 8 years

Harvesters of Baffin Island caribou can tag an additional hundred caribou for the next year as the total allowable harvest will increase for the next eight years. The decision comes in response to fears that caribou are increasing faster than the lichen they eat.

Move comes in response to fears that caribou are increasing faster than the lichen they eat

Effective immediately, harvesters will be able to tag more Baffin Island caribou. The decision comes in response to fears that caribou are increasing faster than the lichen they eat. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Hunters in the Baffin region will be able to harvest higher number of caribou for the next eight years. 

This comes as the territory's minister of environment took the recommendation of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to increase the total allowable harvest, a news release from the Nunavut government said. 

Starting right now and until June 30, 2023, there will be an increase from 250 to 350 tags for Baffin Island caribou, of which up to 75 tags may be used to harvest female caribou.

Each of the following seasons there will be an increase of 50 tags, up to 20 per cent of which can be used to harvest female caribou. This is expected to run for the next eight years or until new information becomes available requiring changes, the news release said.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board (QWB) suggested this exact increase in June. 

Change needed to protect lichen

It argued that, based on Inuit knowledge and observations of caribou in many areas, "the long-term cycle has now entered a new critical phase" meaning a "major change" is needed to the current harvest management strategy being used by the territory.

It said Baffin Inuit have known about — and managed — the long-term population of caribou cycles that take place over the lifetime of an elder, or about 70 to 90 years.

Part of that cycle, the board continued, involves the lichen that caribou eat, which it said is depleted and needs time to replenish itself. 

Caribou can increase faster than depleted lichen can grow, the board said, so a higher harvest would allow the lichen to grow enough to support a larger herd in the future.

The total allowable harvest was established to support the recovery of the Baffin Island caribou population. 

Under the Nunavut Agreement, allocations of the total allowable harvest are the responsibility of the QWB.

Hunters and Trappers Organizations have the authority to allocate their share of the total allowable harvest and to regulate harvesting activities of their members, the release said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Carroll

Reporter

Luke Carroll is a journalist with CBC News in Yellowknife who has previously worked in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Luke is originally from Brockville, Ont., and moved to Yellowknife in May 2020. He can be reached at luke.carroll@cbc.ca.

With files from Jane George

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