Monday December 19, 2016 – Kuujjuaq, Quebec – On behalf of Nunavik Inuit Makivvik expresses deep concern over the staggering decline of caribou in the Leaf River Herd in Northern Quebec (Nunavik) and call on Quebec to stop the sports hunt. Since the last survey in 2011, which yielded an estimate of 430,000 caribou, 2016 results suggest a population of 199,000, a drop of over 50% in five years. George River caribou, which once numbered over 760,000 caribou, were estimated at 8,900 individuals in a 2015 aerial survey.
Makivvik Executive Vice-president Adamie Delisle Alaku and member to the Hunting Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC) stated, “Caribou are a mainstay of our traditional diet. Caribou cannot be replaced by nutritionally poorer quality food equivalents imported from the south and sold at exorbitant prices in Nunavik. This is not a matter of entertainment to see who gets the biggest double-shovel antler trophy head in a sport hunt, it’s a matter of food security for my people, entrenched through the right to harvest and guaranteed harvest levels established through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.”
From a combined total of over 1,200,000 individuals in the 1990s of both George and Leaf River herds, the number of caribou has virtually crashed and the continued decline is evident from corroborating observations by Inuit hunters on the land and scientific data alike. Although not unexpected, these results presented by a Quebec biologist to the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC) at its meeting last week were shocking nonetheless.
“This is a public outrage unknown to the majority of the Canadian public. It is unacceptable that the Federal government chose to remain on the sidelines, despite its fiduciary obligations towards the Inuit of Nunavik specifically related to decisions regarding the George River Herd, which is shared with Newfoundland and Labrador, thus a trans-boundary responsibility held by the Federal government. We do not want history repeating itself and lack of decision on the part of government causing the LRH to crash the way of the GRH”, added Delisle Alaku.
Makivvik and its appointed representatives to the HFTCC have been calling for a stop of the sport hunt for over six years based on indicators of decline including poor body condition, general observation of fewer animals as well as lower numbers of large male caribou which are important contributors to reproductive success but are equally targeted by trophy sport hunters. Despite repeated calls for closure, it took Quebec over three years to close the sport hunt of George River caribou.
Inuit party representatives and indeed all native party representatives (including Cree and Naskapi) called for closure of the Leaf River Herd sport hunt at last week’s HFTCC meeting. It is now squarely in Quebec Minister Luc Blanchette’s court to do the right thing – the Minister of Forests Wildlife and Parks. Close the sport hunt!
Communications Coordinator and Media Relations
Makivvik is the development corporation mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivvik’s role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth.