Hunters in Grise Fiord say the federal environment minister is acting too fast by calling for the Peary caribou to be protected under the Species at Risk Act.
The small caribou is found mainly in the high Arctic islands. Scientists say global warming has made it harder for the animals to feed, and they've seen a 70 per cent drop in the herd's population in some areas. Federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion announced earlier this week that he wants the Peary caribou to be listed as endangered under the environmental protection legislation.
But it has turned into another in a series of confrontations between Inuit hunters and federal officials over the listing of species under the act, with locals saying the facts aren't all in yet.
The head of the Iviq Hunters and Trappers Association in Grise Fiord, Jaypetee Akeeagok, says he's tired of people who don't live in the territory or have much contact with wildlife deciding what species are at risk. He feels the information on the Peary caribou is still incomplete. Akeeagok says population estimates are still underway, and a survey his community did last year hasn't been published yet. He says many hunters believe the Peary caribou are following their normal cycle, with increases some years and drops in the population during others. Akeeagok says there still needs to be more use of Inuit qaujimajtuqangit
, or traditional knowledge, before listing species in Nunavut. "The people who are directly connected to the Peary caribou, who harvest them and who practically live on the same geographically area have not even been consulted," he says. The committee that lists the species says Inuit were consulted. But the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board says it wasn't enough, and board member Harry Flaherty says the federal minister failed to send his proposed list of species to the NWMB before it went public. "It was unfortunate this came about and we're proceeding in writing a letter to the minister regarding our concerns," he says.