As western Nunavut caribou herds nosedive, Taloyoak seeks land protection

“We don’t want to see any (mining) exploration on the Boothia Peninsula”

The Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Association of Taloyoak wants to see the Boothia Peninsula protected from development and wants to focus on other economic ventures, such as tourism, instead of mining. (Photo by Leslie Philipp/Wikipedia Commons)

By Jane George

(Updated, Oct. 8)

CAMBRIDGE BAY—The Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Association of Taloyoak wants to protect the Boothia Peninsula in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region from development.

“We don’t want to see any [mineral] exploration on the Boothia Peninsula,” said Joe Ashevak of the HTA at this week’s annual general meeting of the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board.

That’s so the caribou can thrive there as they used to in the past, he said.

“The caribou population is in decline because of exploration,” Ashevak said.

His community of about 1,000 would rather invest in tourism, he said.

Taloyoak also wants to proceed with a cut-and-wrap facility for fish and meat, which it says would be “similar [to], but smaller” than Kitikmeot Foods’ operation in Cambridge Bay, Ashevak said.

Taloyoak’s ambition is to create an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, or IPCA.

According to online information from the federal government on Indigenous leadership and funding, an IPCA aims to safeguard Indigenous rights, including “the right to exercise free prior and informed consent, while also maintaining biodiversity, and securing a space where communities can actively practice Indigenous ways of life.”

It’s a goal that Ashevak said the World Wildlife Fund and its senior advisor Paul Okalik, who served as Nunavut’s first premier, have encouraged the community to advance toward.

But there’s also a promising diamond exploration property near Taloyoak.

The Stein diamond project is located 85 kilometres northwest of the community, and if the IPCA goes ahead, the development of this project will be stopped in its tracks.

Yet there’s a challenge facing the IPCA: the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, which represents Inuit in five western Nunavut communities, says that about 12 per cent of land that the HTA wants to protect is Inuit-owned land, so it’s owned by all KIA beneficiaries.

Because of the potential socio-economic impact on the region, Fred Pedersen, the KIA’s communications and planning manager, told Ashevak at the wildlife board’s AGM that the KIA wants more information before throwing support to the IPCA.

The association wants to know whether the federal government would be willing to exchange the Inuit-owned lands in a future IPCA for other Crown lands in the Kitikmeot region, Pedersen said.

The development-friendly KIA said previously that it wouldn’t support the draft Nunavut Land Use Plan. That’s because this plan, which is intended to guide resource use and development within the Nunavut Settlement Area, could prevent Inuit in western Nunavut from pursuing mining on their Inuit-owned lands.

Pedersen said the KIA plans to send representatives from the KIA’s lands department, including its director, Geoff Clark, and its new senior advisor, Peter Taptuna, a former premier of Nunavut, to Taloyoak later this year to discuss the IPCA.

The idea for a conservation area around Taloyoak comes as the populations of three caribou herds in the Kitikmeot region are in free fall.

A report that the Government of Nunavut delivered to the wildlife board on Wednesday said:

  • The Bluenose East caribou herd continues to decline, to roughly 19,000, down from its 2015 population of about 38,000.
  • The Bathurst caribou herd has shown “no sign of recovery” and a continued decline from close to half a million caribou in the 1980s to the current estimate of about 8,200, down from an estimated 19,700 in 2015.
  • The Dolphin and Union caribou herd has undergone a decline of 34 per cent in eight years (4.2 per cent annually on average) from the 2007 population of about 27,800: the October 2018 assessment also showed a “continued significant decline.”

At the wildlife meeting, participants also discussed various measures to stop the herds’ declines, including reductions or eliminations of harvest quotas.

(An earlier version of this story stated Indigenous organizations and governments can apply for funds from the Canada Nature Fund for an IPCA until Jan. 31. That is incorrect: the 2019 deadline closed this past January.)

Share This Story

(26) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ours not yours on

    Mr Clarke will never allow that to be created. It’s unfortunate that the kia is run by an extremely pro development qablunaaq hell bent on ensuring Inuit lose. The netsilik communities should seperate from the kitikmeot, they’d be better off.


  2. Posted by Heads in the sand on

    Given the scale of the land a mine site is absolutely tiny, I doubt it has any impact on the herds. But this is an easy scapegoat and fits easily into anti-industry narratives.

  3. Posted by North Baffiner on

    Another dangerous assumption made. IOL is held in two categories. Sub-surface IOL, held in trust by NTI and surface IOL, held in trust by RIAs on behalf of the communities. Each parcel is also denoted by a community identifier, identifying which community gave up 75% of other lands to receive their 25% overall IOL.
    Perhaps it is time to return ownership and management of IOL to each community, now that we find RIAs and communities have conflicting interests and needs. It may be time to get the RIAs out of land ownership, and vest the title in each community which would force both the RIAs and NTI to listen to community interests.

  4. Posted by annonymous on

    The Bathurst heard is in decline due to Mining in and around Bathurst Inlet -then there’s the Road & Port Project that was to be located right by Bathurst Inlet. Our ancestors lived and survived off the land before mining came to life. If you look on the map where KIA & others had planned to built the port, you can see the river. Now why would they want to built a port near the river? I’ve been there, it’s a great fishing/hunting spot, plenty to see if and/when there’s wildlife plus berry picking.

    Hats off to Taloyoakmiut, keep it up as they say ‘caribou is in decline’ each year.

    • Posted by INUK on

      I m sorry people , the modern world is comming , can t all stay in the stone age

  5. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Tourism? I hope Joe Ashevak is not on the welcoming committee. I can’t think of anyone less welcoming. The community in fact has not been very welcoming to tourists, cruise ships, sports hunts, etc… And a meat and fish facility similar to Kitikmeot Foods? Quite an expensive endeavour for that little town. Kitikmeot Foods operates with a significant deficit, Kivalliq Meat and Fish barely has its head above water, and I doubt a little place like Taloyoak would be any different. They would probably end up operating with a huge deficit not to mention the fact that it goes contrary to their concern for declining caribou herds. You’re concerned about declining herds but it’s okay to harvest even more caribou etc for a meat plant? Try to figure out the intelligence behind that one.

  6. Posted by Charlie on

    As an outsider and a longtime admirer of Inuit culture and the arctic lands, PLEASE do not underestimate the potential of tourism. It’s non-destructive and brings in income for local lodging, meals, artists and others.

    (I hunt with a camera, not with a rifle. I’m not a fan of competing with First Nations people for their food resources.)

    I’ve actually run small group tours, mostly focused on wildlife and landscape photography in the past. I’ve done work in Iceland, northern Alaska and a little in Quebec where it could be reached via road, i.e., Chisasibi and that region. I’d have welcomed the opportunity to have elders or others talk with tour guests about Inuit history and culture.

    The cost of air travel is prohibitive for most, but if that could be brought under control, I can foresee a big demand all over Nunavut.

    I’m not sure how that high cost is best addressed, but that is the single largest impediment to a thriving tourism industry.

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    It is ironic that Taloyoak wants a fish and meat plant similar to Kitikmeot Foods. That business is located in a mining town that also has a robust tourism sector. Locals in Cambridge Bay have not been pressured to make the false choice between which natural resource sector should be developed. They are busy developing them all.

    It is very fortunate that caribou have returned to the Taloyoak area from being in very low numbers in the past, even in the absence of any industrial disturbance. The caribou have moved into the Taloyoak area from Queen Maud Gulf and Wager Bay areas that are already protected. Too bad the caribou cannot stick to where the conservation people want to “save” them. At this rate, we in Nunavut are going to get to 100% protection with no difference to whether the caribou come or go, go up or down.

    When the caribou move or go down again- and they will- people should be wondering if they will have wages to pay for store bought food to feed their families then. Taloyoak is one of the poorest communities in Nunavut. They desperately need any form of economic development, including a fish plant and tourism. An option with unknowable pros and cons is being taken off the table.

    The government of Nunavut is responsible for providing relief to people without a job, and for dealing with the social and mental fall out that comes when whole generations suffer from a lack of opportunity. It is not the GN, but the Liberal Government of Canada and the World Wildlife Fund that are dangling money in front of poverty stricken Taloyoak to make this conservation area happen. These groups could not care less whether the hundreds of people in that community who cannot be guides or plant workers can ever make their own living.

    As it makes no difference to the caribou either way, this community is just being (ab)used by these groups for their own purposes.

  8. Posted by Northern Guy on

    If tourism were an option for Taloyoak it would already be happening, beside which Inuit seem hell bent on exterpating the biggest tourist draw that most communities have, polar bears. A quick check of the map shows that Inuit own no subsurface land on the Boothia so the Taloyoak HTO can rest easy there won’t be any interest in mineral development for a very long time.

    • Posted by all in on

      So Northern Guy, if there’s been no tourism potential reached thus far and also no mining, what’s a town to do? Wait out the mineral industry for a mine on non-IOL? Why not take the money to develop tourism and other potential?!?!

  9. Posted by Jim Excite on

    They are worried about the caribou population?? That’s weird, Most Caribou meat for sale on Facebook is from there, right? Someone wrote awhile back about cargo fees on the airlines up north, and they mentioned First Air in Yellowknife was constantly shipping caribou out to other communities, and the origin Spence Bay! So they are making money left and right from this natural resource, why not mining resource as well? You’re already cutting the population of the caribou, how can development be any worse? As they say on Facebook, Caribou for SELL!! comes with Fresh 7up.

  10. Posted by Jason on

    The irony here is the emergence of an ideological battle between the vision Mr. Clark has for Nunavut and the vision southern based funded WWF has for Nunavut.
    In-between sits a community with limited socioeconomic opportunities and an Inuit Organization that is engaging its communities in a reactionary manner to protect its own interests.

    • Posted by all in on

      Jason, why not ask the HTO who’s idea it was to protect the area? I’ll bet you 5lbs of tunnuq it wasn’t WWF’s!

  11. Posted by caribou lover on

    STOP SELLING CARIBOU!!!! Than your population numbers won’t be declining. Everyday there are 15-20 caribou for sale on Facebook at $400.00 a piece. This needs to end. Don’t blame the decline on exploration. Look at the bright benefits of exploration; jobs for your people, money coming into the community and so on.

  12. Posted by Janimarik on

    It’s a battle between those who resists on loosing their way of life for thousands of years (that have protected and preserve resources) AGAINST those who have surrendered their rights as Inuit , results of extinguishment whom destroying Mother Earth guided by power of money… so what!? Let’s demolish landscape and let those instructors that teach us how to do it! Mining ain’t the way to ensure survival of Inuit, it is to extinguish our way of life! Period!

  13. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    the caribou are not in decline due to exploration.

    they are in decline because of all of the facebook caribou being sold throughout the Region! like ones before me have said, they are selling one caribou on Taloyoak Sell/Swap for $400 per caribou. not just one or two but every day you see them!

    how much caribou have Canadian North and First Air flown out? they won’t tell us but a simple search of the FB site will show you how much has been sold and continue to be sold.

    yes, Inuit are allowed to harvest and sell country food. that is not up for debate. but when should we stop? now? tomorrow? when there is no more to [i]sell[/i]

    right now it’s just easier to blame exploration right Mr Ashevak.

  14. Posted by Caribou on


    • Posted by Janimarik on

      Amen! Caribou is the best!!

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Mining is not causing caribou to decline. It’s the mega loads of caribou being shot and shipped all over Nunavut from Taloyoak for $4-500 an animal every day. We see it all over facebook. People are greedy for money and are killing as many as possible so they can sell it. Caribou are being injured and not pursued like a good hunter would do. It has nothing to do with” way of life” but rather the way of the almighty dollar. Elders are going without caribou, People who have no way to go hunting are not getting caribou so lets not pretend hunters are preserving a way of life, sharinbg their catch with the less fortunate etc….some are of course but far more have made a business out of shooting caribou and selling it. A lot of caribou. People in this area should not be surprised when they start having to buy tags for caribou. The herds can’t maintain levels with the volume of animals being taken for $$$$. Don’t blame mining and exploration. Blame irresponsible harvesting.

    • Posted by Jim Excite on

      Your rant has nothing to do with the story at all, How is it hats off to Spance Bay again?
      Your selling your food source on FB everyday, Hats off….just shows how small minded and ignorant you are to the problems facing the decline of your own food source.
      And by the looks of it, one of the biggest sellers is a wife of someones family that already has a lot of money, so why is she selling caribou all the time? Just wondering….
      “so the caribou can thrive there as they used to in the past” as he says, Hows does the Caribou thrive again if your going to hunt and sell it till there’s nothing left? As for Sheerless Arctic; The hunters around Yellowknife and surrounding villages gathered more Caribou then they needed all the time. instead of harvesting one or two they would harvest 20 and only take the legs and back straps and leave the rest……and thats the caribou population that made its way north to Coppermine, so your logic of mining is very miss informed to one thing, mining….

      • Posted by Sheerless Arctic on

        You mention of animal wastage laws being broken by NWT residents no where near Taloyoak. Report them to the authorities if they are breaking the laws, that is what the laws are for. In the meantime there are no laws in place to protect the caribou calving grounds from being disturbed by mining activity when they are very sensitive to any disturbance.

        • Posted by Jim Excite on

          What you think you live in the time when people had house phones, you don’t think the authorities have had this info from 30 years ago……..its been happening well beyond that then. And look at it now 2019…..And Spence Bay is heading on the same road since FB has Caribou for “sell” & “Fresh pop”

          • Posted by Sheerless Arctic on

            These Taloyoak resides aren’t trying to protect all of Nunavut from being frozen in time. They are merely trying to protect a very ecologically sensitive area they have been dependent on for a very long time. It is there farm and home so people should learn to respect that. There is plenty of land elsewhere else in the territory to pursue for mining.

      • Posted by asianik isumalik on

        It’s just a few people selling caribou meat that are giving the town a bad name. And most of the hunters are responsible people and hunt to for their winter supply and for their elderly relatives in other communities.
        Taloyoak has hardly any jobs and this is the one source of income that is available to young families.
        You could criticize when you have enough to eat and have a steady income but a lot of young families don’t have that luxury.

        Just think about both sides before you start spewing off.

  15. Posted by Sheerless Arctic on

    The caribou herds in steep decline mentioned in the article reside around Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay and not Taloyoak. There has been considerable mining activity in those areas where the decline is sited, so the residents should not be blamed for being concerned with such activity in their area where they depend for their food.

  16. Posted by Disgruntled on

    Anything that stifles development needs to be quashed immediately. Nunavut needs jobs and resource revenue. Eco-colonialism is not the solution. Mining will provide jobs and prosperity to Nunavummiut.

Comments are closed.