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Environment and Conservation
May 15, 2012

The following statement was given today in the House of Assembly by the Honourable Terry French, Minister of Environment and Conservation:

Hunters Aid Conservation Efforts Through Labrador Caribou Health Monitoring Program

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is dedicated to the conservation and management of wildlife in the province, built on the common principle of sustainability. An important component of our conservation efforts is our health monitoring programs for big game which provide essential information on harvested animals.

Resident caribou hunters in Labrador were asked to participate in the caribou health monitoring program by submitting carcass samples from George River caribou killed during this year’s hunting season. I am pleased to report the success of our program this season, Mr. Speaker, with a total of 181 sample kits returned to the Provincial Government for analysis.

With the recent decline of the George River herd, it is crucial that as much information as possible be collected and analyzed to ensure the long-term sustainability of these animals. The monitoring program is an important mechanism through which we gather information on the age and overall health of the declining herd. For the past several years, Mr. Speaker, hunters in our province were provided with kits and asked to provide samples from the harvested animals, the most common being jawbones. Hunters also responded to the request this year in Labrador to collect other samples such as leg bones and blood samples. These additional samples will allow estimation of pregnancy rates, pathogen/parasite information, as well as genetic analyses – important information for a population in decline.

In 2010, Mr. Speaker, the population of the George River herd was estimated at approximately 74,000 animals, representing a significant decline from the previous census estimate of 385,000 in 2001. Conservation measures for the herd were announced including the suspension of the commercial caribou hunt, non-resident caribou hunting through the use of outfitters, and the resident caribou licence transfer system for Labrador residents. Additionally, the allowable harvest was reduced to one caribou per licensed hunter from the former limit of two. Conservation measures were further enhanced for the 2011-12 season with the overall length of the hunting season for resident licence holders shortened from eight months to three months.

Mr. Speaker, we must continue to work collaboratively with hunters and all stakeholders to help ensure the future of this important herd and its place in the lives of Labradorians and the province as a whole.

Thank you.

2012 05 15                              1:50 p.m.

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