Elders, Hunters And Others Head To Saskatoon Workshop With A Common Goal: To Help Declining Caribou Herds Rebuild
Stonewall, Manitoba February 18, 2010 - Almost 75 participants – among them many elders and hunters from northern Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories (NWT), plus Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) members from those jurisdictions as well as from Nunavut and Manitoba – will brainstorm at a special caribou workshop in Saskatoon between February 23 and 25.They will suggest ways to reverse the major population decline of the Beverly barren-ground caribou herd, and to try to make sure that the neighbouring Qamanirjuaq and Ahiak caribou populations don't suffer the same major drop. Current data show that globally, most caribou herds are decreasing.
"We have to remember that our ancestors left the caribou for us, our parents left the caribou for us," says BQCMB chairman Albert Thorassie. "Now it's our turn to make sure we leave caribou to our kids and our children's kids. It's a tradition."
The workshop, being held at the Saskatoon Inn, has been organized by the BQCMB with the aid of numerous organizations. A report from the workshop will go to governments, communities and organizations as recommendations. Actions to be identified by workshop participants will likely be carried out by governments, the BQCMB, communities, companies and individuals.
The BQCMB advises governments (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, NWT, Nunavut and Canada) and communities on conservation and management of two barren-ground caribou populations, the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herds. The Beverly herd's range has historically extended from northern Saskatchewan through NWT to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, while the Qamanirjuaq herd ranges primarily from northern Manitoba into the southern Kivalliq.
The NWT government has conducted reconnaissance surveys on the Beverly calving ground for the past three years, finding progressively fewer animals. In June 2009, fewer than 100 adult caribou were counted on the calving ground during the peak of the calving period, compared to 5,737 animals counted using comparable methods in 1994.
Reconnaissance surveys are not population surveys – they only provide a snapshot of some of the animals on the calving ground during the June calving period. The Beverly herd's current population is not known. In 1994, when surveys required to calculate a population estimate were last done, the herd numbered around 276,000.
But even without a current estimate of total population, it's clear that the Beverly herd has suffered a major population decline. The causes may be a mix of natural and human-caused factors. These include the natural caribou population cycle, parasites, diseases, predation, climate change, and changes in habitat (including winter range lost to forest fires). Limited satellite-collar data indicate that some cows that had previously calved on the Beverly calving ground shifted to the Ahiak calving ground in recent years. The Beverly herd may also have been affected by human-caused activities, including mineral exploration and development, and hunter harvest.
The BQCMB urges everyone – governments, companies and individuals alike – to do everything possible to take pressure off the Beverly herd right away. The herd will need the most favourable conditions over many years for its population to increase again.
Communities in northern Saskatchewan especially have depended on hunting Beverly caribou to feed their families. The herd has also been hunted by residents in Lutselk'e, Fort Smith and Fort Resolution in NWT, and Baker Lake in Nunavut.
The goal of the BQCMB's caribou workshop is to identify realistic management actions that communities are likely to support. The purpose of the workshop is not to discuss consultation requirements or to debate treaty rights – rather, it is to have a productive discussion about what everyone can do to ensure the survival of caribou.
The BQCMB has already identified five priorities for action to help the Beverly herd:
1. Governments and others should protect areas that are very important to caribou, starting with the calving grounds.
2. Governments and regulatory agencies should do more to help protect caribou from disturbance and habitat loss resulting from mineral exploration and development, which have been increasing for years across the Beverly caribou range.
3. Hunters should help by taking only what they need.
4. Hunters should help by preventing wastage.
5. Hunters should help by harvesting bulls instead of cows whenever possible.
Next week's caribou workshop is possible as a result of the generous financial support of a wide array of organizations: the NWT's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Nunavut's Department of Environment, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, the NWT and Nunavut regional offices of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Manitoba Conservation, the Prince Albert Grand Council, the Athabasca Land Use Office, the Athabasca Denesuline Negotiation Team, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, WWF-Canada, AREVA Resources Canada Inc., Cameco Corp. and the BQCMB.
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Backgrounder (.pdf file)
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