April 10, 2006
The following statement was issued to day by Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
I rise today to inform the House and the people of the province of our ongoing efforts to protect the endangered woodland caribou herd in southern Labrador and an investigation currently being conducted into the possible illegal hunting of the herd by Innu hunters from Pakua Shipi, Quebec.
So far this year, one snowmobile has been seized and charges are pending in relation to the killing of 20 or 21 woodland caribou from the Birchy Lake area during a weekend hunt in February.
Just last week in a separate incident, another two Quebec hunters were apprehended and three caribou seized in a zone closed to hunting in southern Labrador. One of the animals was collared, which is evidence that it is part of the protected herd. Charges are pending in this most recent case as well.
In total, 34 animals are believed to have been killed from the protected southern Labrador woodland herd this year. Our conservation officers have conducted 13 aerial patrols of the area since the end of January.
The woodland caribou herd of Southern Labrador are protected by endangered species legislation and their core range is closed to hunting. A broad-based coalition including provincial wildlife officials and representatives from the Quebec Innu have been working together over several years to develop and implement a Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador respects the fact that the hunting of caribou is integral to the Innu way of life. There are healthy caribou herd populations in Labrador that can sustain harvesting activity. This is not the case with this particular herd. The Joir River group, for example, is numbered at less than 50 animals.
In February officials from the departments of Natural Resources, and Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs went to Pakua Shipi to meet with Innu leaders and citizens to outline our conservation concerns. Our officials reinforced the need to respect conservation measures established to protect the woodland caribou of Labrador. The meeting was attended by 50 people from the community and was well received.
On March 8, another meeting was held with representatives of Pakua Shipi and officials from the provincial departments of Environment and Conservation, Natural Resources, and Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.
Since that point, a letter was received from the Chief of the Pakua Shipi Innu indicating their intention to not engage in the harvesting of this endangered woodland caribou herd, but to instead hunt the George River herd in an open zone near Churchill Falls.
Conservation officers have been actively monitoring the situation. We will continue to work with all groups to ensure that conservation measures to protect this caribou herd are respected and enforced.
2006 04 10 1:55 p.m.
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