More Baffin Island caribou will be harvested this year, but how many more is in debate

Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to vote on 2 proposals

Members of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board gather with several representatives to discuss proposals on a new 10-year plan to manage Baffin Island caribou. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

A board that represents hunters and trappers in Nunavut’s Baffin region would like to substantially increase how many Baffin Island caribou are allowed to be harvested over the next 10 years.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board met with elders and representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and different levels of government at the Aqsarniit Hotel in Iqaluit on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss how big that increase should be.

“Any wildlife species in Nunavut are important for the people of Nunavut,” said Nunavut Wildlife Management Board chairperson Dan Shewchuk in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

“But Baffin Island caribou is really important.”

His board will consider two proposals put forth by the Nunavut government and Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board as hunters in the region prepare for this year’s hunt, which starts July 1.

The caribou population on Baffin Island has been a topic of concern over the past decade. Nunavut’s Department of Environment conducted an aerial survey in 2012 that concluded the herd had shrunk by an estimated 95 per cent since the 1990s.

The current allowable harvest is 250 Baffin Island caribou per year. Hunters reached that quota for the 2021-22 season on May 22.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, which is comprised of a chairman from each hunters and trappers organization in the region, is proposing that number increase by 100 in the upcoming year, 75 next year, and then 50 every year after that until the 2031-32 hunting season.

The Government of Nunavut is proposing a more modest increase of 50 caribou each year, for the next 10 years.

The changes would come into effect for this year’s hunting season.

The territorial government’s number comes from surveying it did of the caribou population in the region between 2015 and the spring of 2022. The surveys show a “potential” increase in caribou, particularly in the southern part of Baffin Island, according to its proposal.

The GN also said in its proposal document it consulted the regional hunters and trappers organizations, and those meetings were held virtually, in mid-February.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board stated in its proposal that caribou populations rise and fall in cycles that are connected with the availability of their main source of food, lichen.

There is not enough lichen in the Baffin region, states the board, so more caribou need to be harvested, since the number of caribou on the island grows at a faster pace than lichen does.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board said its position is drawn from traditional Inuit knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, along with consultation with local hunters and trappers organizations.

Once both proposals were read, a considerable portion of the question and commenting period came from members of HTOs and elders on the use of applying traditional knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, to caribou harvesting.

“It’s very challenging, how to implement Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit into a management system,” said Ben Kovic, a board member of Iqaluit’s Amarok HTO and former chairperson of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board

“But it’s always possible.”

Others expressed the desire for the GN to do in-person consultation, instead of virtual meetings.

Now that the proposals have been heard, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board will vote on a new management plan for the Baffin Island herd.

Once that decision is made, it will be forwarded to Environment Minister David Akeeagok to approve, change or reject.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    It would be interesting and educational to hear some of the discussion that took place at this meeting around the use of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in harvesting and herd management. I wish our media would see the value in reporting on that.

    There appear, to me at least, to be a lot of unknowns around the process by which the discovery, the refutation and falsification, or the verification of knowledge occurs within the IQ paradigm. How, for example, are competing ideas resolved and how are bad ones discovered and discarded among those who understand and use the methods of IQ? Moreover, what are those methods?

    The lack of clarity leads me to suspect, cynically, that IQ is most often invoked to confer little more than a magical authority over the empirical claims it means to address. Or, that it persists primarily to preserve an important symbol of identity.

    Unfortunately, the superficial treatment of IQ in these articles reinforces that perception and takes us no further.

    So, is the problem the journalistic lens applied here; i.e, writers who don’t know, don’t care to ask and are content to defer to the moral authority of IQ? Or, is there a deeper problem in the lack of epistemological clarity that prevents deeper inquiry?


      • Posted by iWonder on

        You’re probably right.

        Do you think there’s any value in bringing it up here anyway?

  2. Posted by Urhuntless on


  3. Posted by Name Withheld on

    If proper management was taken and more watchful eyes out there, Iqaluit would have less poachers and the number of caribou would be increasing.

    Same goes for the other communities in Baffin.

    • Posted by Blame game on

      Blame Mary River for low caribou numbers, use it as a reason to deny recommendation of phase 2 and then increase hunting? Sounds completely logical doesn’t it. What’s the real story?

      • Posted by Taxpayer on

        The caribou was found to have declined in 2012. Mary River began operations in 2014. From 2015 onward, the survey said, the caribou increased. It could be more easily argued that caribou benefited from mining using the IQ paradigm of linking coincidental events without direct evidence of causation. Of course, in a place called reality, it was the hunting ban that helped, and the mining as asserted in many NIRB hearings, is pretty well neutral on caribou.

  4. Posted by Frankly on

    Facebook sales will go up through the roof again with caribou meat. Tags are limited only for Facebook sales so get your tags quickly, The government should sell them to the local hunters for what they can receive from Facebook sales on average a lone caribou can fetch up more than $2400.00 !! $2400 dollars for a caribou and that can buy a little bit of western food from the store . Northwest company laughing all the way to the bank. We Inuit are stupid.

  5. Posted by IQ test on

    IQ isn’t really real. It’s something Qallunaat that are established in NU use to make newcomers not feel Tunnganarniq. IQ seems to be selectively and conveniently used when it’s to point out a lack of consultation or to drive home a point. As a former teacher… students at school would have to learn these principles from a qallunaaq high school teacher. It is not entrenched in life and teachings. Ergo, not real and organic…

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      I think Traditional knowledge, or IQ does refer to something interesting and important. The problem I see is that the lack of clarity around what that is gives license to the kinds of opportunism and selective political use you are referring to.

      My other concern is this also gives the youth of Nunavut a false sense of what counts as knowledge, or more specifically, of how things can be known. That might sound trivial or abstract, but in a world that is increasingly fixed toward an economy of knowledge this matters.

  6. Posted by Terry on

    Inuit credibility as managers of caribou herds is crumbling and very publicly.

    • Posted by Inukinkugluk on

      As long as I have been on the land living
      — all my life.
      I have never encountered the owners or managers of caribou herds that I hunt in Nunavut. I hunt all herds and have never came across the owners on the land or even the managers – who are they ?!
      Livestock on the other hand have owners and managers down south as with the reindeer herders that own and manage their own caribou herds . Not here in Nunavut where all of our herds are abandoned to the wolves. That one person that decided all of this is certainly not from Nunavut but from the provinces where all the farmlands are down south . We inuit have been in rule for too long . So where is the traditional knowledge here ?


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