April 6, 2004
Minister Byrne provides update on status of illegal caribou hunt
Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources, reiterated today his concern about the illegal caribou hunt which occurred late last week in the Cache River area of Labrador. This area is a restricted hunting area in an effort to protect the Red Wine Caribou Herd, a threatened species under the provincial Endangered Species Act.
"We have restricted this area in our efforts to conserve the Red Wine caribou herd. Our best estimates prior to this illegal hunting activity indicate there could be fewer than 100 animals remaining in this herd. In fact, there could be as few as 87," said Minister Byrne. "This information was fully communicated to the Quebec Innu on a number of occasions. Yet, they willingly and knowingly engaged in a hunt. This action was conducted despite my plea that they not undertake this staged protest hunt."
Minister Byrne said government officials, including representatives of the departments of Natural Resources, Environment and Conservation, and Justice are now assessing the information government has in relation to this recent protest hunt. Government’s best estimate indicates there were at least 30 animals harvested in the most recent hunt and there is a fear there were significantly more. Furthermore, the investigation continues into the March 21, 2004, incident where conservation officers seized 32 caribou carcasses, several rifles and two snowmobiles. It remains to be determined how many of the harvested animals were part of the Red Wine herd.
"I cannot stress enough how seriously government takes this issue. We certainly want to send the message loud and clear that we condemn this illegal hunt. We will take whatever action we deem appropriate to ensure this illegal activity does not continue and the law of this province is enforced," said Minister Byrne. "Whatever motives the Quebec Innu have for undertaking this hunt are irrelevant. Their actions are not justified. Conservation must prevail and we will do everything within our power to ensure conservation does prevail."
Minister Byrne also indicated government is investigating whether civil action can be taken against the individuals who conducted this hunt in an effort to seek compensation on behalf of the province for the slaughter of these caribou.
The minister further stated that government does have the support of the RCMP in the ongoing investigation and welcomes their support. As well, Minister Byrne commended Peter Penashue of the Labrador Innu for the leadership he has shown on this issue in condemning the hunt.
"I certainly want the members of the Quebec Innu to take notice that this government is prepared to take action," said Minister Byrne. "Within the next few days I hope to be in a position to provide a further update on this unfortunate situation."
Media contact: Carmel Turpin, Communications (709) 729-5282, (709) 685-4624
2004 04 06 4:20 p.m.