Premier says government won’t regulate online caribou meat sales
Suggestion prompted by concerns about declining Kivalliq caribou herds
Nunavut’s premier says his government has no intention to regulate the online sale of caribou meat by Inuit.
Instead, “that responsibility should be with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.,” Joe Savikataaq said during question period in the legislature on Monday.
“As a government, we are bound by the Nunavut Agreement.”
Savikataaq offered the remarks in response to a suggestion made by Baker Lake MLA, Craig Simailak, that the government work with NTI to reopen certain sections of the agreement in order to protect declining Kivalliq caribou herds.
The worry, raised by Kivalliq MLAs through the legislature’s recent winter sitting and past sittings, is that online sales could be contributing to already dwindling caribou populations.
“Caribou in the Kivalliq are in a crisis,” said Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet.
“A lot of it is due to overhunting and internet sales.”
Although Savikataaq said he hasn’t had any conversations with NTI about the online sale of caribou meat since the agreement was signed, he suggested that if NTI wanted to push for it, “NTI could control the sales of caribou meat within the territory.”
In 2018, Savikataaq presented the findings of a GN-funded population assessment that demonstrated “a continued declining trend” for the Qamanirjuaq herd in the Kivalliq region.
At the time, he said his department would continue to work with the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board to see if management actions are needed.
Past annual reports prepared by the board have indicated that online sales could be contributing to the herd’s decline.
For NTI, the relationship between dwindling Kivalliq caribou populations and online meat sales isn’t straightforward.
“At this time, there remains some uncertainty about the exact quantity of meat sales that have been occurring, especially over social media, and its impact on caribou populations,” said James Eetoolook, vice-president of NTI, in a statement to Nunatsiaq News.
“In the absence of adequate information, it would be premature to propose restrictions.”
Instead, NTI says it will continue to support the Government of Nunavut and other management partners in collecting information on the amount of online meat sales, which caribou populations the meat is coming from and which regions it’s going to.
Efforts to track those sales through the airlines hasn’t been successful in the past.
Acknowledging the concerns related to online caribou meat sales, NTI scheduled a series of regional caribou workshops last year, but only managed to hold its Kitikmeot workshop before cancelling the others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says it is currently working on resuming those workshops for the Kivalliq and Qikiqtaaluk regions, where it hopes to discuss, among other things, community-based management plans.
“Management plans have been an effective tool in managing wildlife in Nunavut and could be used in conjunction with other management tools such as total allowable harvests and non-quota limitations,” said Eetoolook.
But first, NTI says more information on caribou meat sales needs to be collected.