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Climate change threatens hunting trails

KRG produces maps to help hunters travel safely

By JANE GEORGE

Hunters in Umiujaq, Kangiqsujuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq are taking increased risks when travelling on the land, particularly along the coasts, due to changes in the climate, according to new research.

Hunters in those areas are favouring alternate routes to avoid dangerous spots, but the study, called Climate change in northern Quebec: access to land and resource issues, says over time these adaptive strategies won’t work if there is increasing instability or changes in the climate.

“If climate change is to occur in Arctic regions at a rapid rate, as predicted, this may pose unprecedented challenges to northern communities,” says the report prepared for the Kativik Regional Government, in collaboration with the Public Health Research Unit, Laval University Hospital Research Centre and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach.

The research team included Violaine Lafortune, Chris Furgal, Jonathan Drouin, Noat Inish, Betsy Etidliooie, Markusie Qiisiq and Peter Tookalook.

From their interviews with hunters in three Nunavik communities and in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach, they were able to develop maps showing traditional routes for travel, routes that are being used now, as well as dangerous spots.

These are the first step in developing a more complete “tool kit” for hunters and others who travel on the land. This kit will contain trail maps, risk assessment maps and a video. It will also feature a guide of adaptive measures that can help communities deal with climate and environmental change.

The goal is to lessen the impact of further changes before hunters may eventually decide to abandon traditional hunting and fishing grounds due to increased travel risks on unstable ice and generally unpredictable weather.

And this could limit communities’ access to wildlife and traditional country food supplies.

Warmer temperatures, more wind, less snow and later freeze-ups are already changing conditions for hunters, says the research report.

In Umiujaq, changing conditions mean that ice break-up now occurs in March instead of May, and in Kangiqsujuaq it occurs in May instead of June.

Hunters told researchers they use more inland trails and as a result, “Now it is hard to go the places we used to go,” said Amaamak Jaaka from Kangiqsujuaq.

In Kangiqsualujjuaq, tidal currents have become more dangerous than before, causing one woman to say, “It’s the worst in the spring. I am scared to go into the open waters in coastal areas.”

Temperature changes are still within 50-year normal ranges in northern Quebec, but the available statistics don’t show the increased unpredictability in the weather.

For this reason the study recommends more research based on traditional and scientific findings as well as continued consultation with hunters.

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