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Environment and Conservation
Executive Council
December 19, 2011

Measures Implemented for 2011-12 George River Caribou Hunting Season

New harvest management measures for the George River caribou herd in Labrador will be implemented for the 2011-12 hunting season, following extensive consultations and a review of current information about the herd’s status. The season, which usually opens in August, was delayed this year to allow sufficient time to obtain and assess the most up-to-date population information and consult with groups in Labrador and Quebec before any final management decisions were made.

“Ongoing research and monitoring efforts since the 2010 census suggest that a further population decline is occurring within the George River caribou herd, despite major restrictions on harvesting that were implemented last fall,” said the Honourable Terry French, Minister of Environment and Conservation. “It is clear that the future of this important resource is dependent on cooperation, participation by all stakeholders and a collaborative approach involving the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, Aboriginal organizations, and all other stakeholders built on the common interest of caribou conservation.”

For 2011-12, the overall length of the hunting season for resident licence holders will be reduced from eight months to three months, with the season opening tomorrow (Tuesday, December 20), and closing on March 20, 2012. The following conservation measures also apply:

The George River caribou population has declined more than 80 per cent over the last decade, with a drop between census periods from 385,000 animals in 2001 to 74,000 in 2010. Current population estimates indicate the herd may now be approximately 50,000 animals. While the precise cause of this decline is uncertain, there is evidence that changes in the quality, quantity, and accessibility of food may have been a major contributing factor. Other factors such as predation, disease, parasites, and the effects of climate change, may also be contributing to the decline. While the annual harvest is not the reason for the overall decline in the herd, hunting adds to natural mortality as the population becomes smaller, therefore leading to a faster decline and impeding recovery efforts. The low numbers in the George River herd is consistent with trends being observed in other northern caribou herds across North America.

“Sustainability of the George River caribou herd is paramount,” said the Honourable Nick McGrath, Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Responsible for Labrador Affairs. “Working together with Aboriginal organizations and stakeholder groups to support new management measures, we endeavour to ensure the long-term future of the herd.”

Based on the current rate of decline of George River caribou, a total allowable harvest approach may be necessary for the 2012-13 hunting season. This means that based on the best available science, the total number of individuals from a population of wildlife that may be lawfully harvested will be determined. Consultations will take place with Aboriginal organizations, the Government of Quebec, and other relevant stakeholders regarding such an approach and will ensure that any future management decisions are based on both scientific and traditional ecological knowledge. Furthermore, an advisory committee, initiated in June of this year, will ensure Labrador stakeholder groups continue to provide input into the long-term management and conservation measures for the herd. Communications will also continue with the Government of Quebec and Quebec Aboriginal organizations. A cross-jurisdictional approach will also be adopted in order to manage the herd consistently across provincial boundaries.

The December 20 season opening date for caribou applies to the George River zone only. As in past practice, Labrador caribou hunting extension zones open and close depending on the movements of the herd. Currently, these movements do not warrant the opening of additional zones. For a list of open hunting zones, hunters can visit www.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/hunting/cariboulab.html or contact the Wildlife Division office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at 709-896-5107.

Licences are available at the following Provincial Government offices:

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Media contacts:

Melony O’Neill
Director of Communications
Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-2575, 689-0928
Carol Ann Carter
Director of Communications
Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs
Labrador Affairs
709-729-1674, 631-9505

2011 12 19             12:30 p.m.

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