The more I watch the all-too-real drama play out concerning the caribou herds, the more I get freaked out by the similarities with the collapse of the East Coast cod fishery that changed my life, and thousand of others, on the East Coast forever.
Right now, as it was then, the universe seems to be conspiring against the tuktu herds that so many in the North depend upon, and even Inuit rights are working against them.
Many folks in Rankin Inlet aren’t too happy with the plans of Dunnedin Ventures exploration company and its Kahuna project, which is pretty understandable considering the company wants to do its thing in an area known as Anguu nunaa (Anguu’s Land) that’s an important fall migration route for the caribou.
With an almost perfect storm bashing the tuktu from almost every angle, it’s downright amazing how quiet the vast majority of people are in regards to the situation.
It’s a slippery slope for a powerless East Coast boy to read and read again, ask and ask again, and listen and listen again trying to capture the big picture concerning the tuktu, but I’ve absorbed enough to reach the point where I believe they are seriously in trouble.
That being the case, and coming from an area that saw a once-massive population of ground fish be totally wiped out, I must, at least, take my turn sounding the alarm bell.
All 13 caribou herds are in decline, with two once-mammoth herds in Quebec being dangerously close to becoming a distant memory of better times.
It’s past time everyone with a stake in the caribou population – except those whose game is commercial gain – take a genuine interest and stop leaving the situation for someone else to resolve, and that means a bare-boned honest assessment.
A gentleman who has hunted more animals in his life than I’ve seen hockey pucks in mine (that’s a statement) has been spending a little time helping me to get my head around it all.
I’m not a hunter, nor am I involved with industry at any level. I am not from here – although I’ve lived here almost 20 years and call Rankin home – and that disqualifies me from having any opinion on the topic at all in the eyes of some.
But it’s a heart-wrenching situation that can only have one inevitable outcome if we continue to tread the same path.
My friend explained to me that, in Rankin, Inuit traditionally hunt bulls in the fall, but herd migration changes have led to fewer bulls, so now they hunt cows in November to meet family needs.
That can take its toll on a number of hunters. It’s something they don’t want to do because they know it’s negatively affecting the caribou population.
Dunnedin Ventures holds a lot of the cards in its situation, as the target of their exploration is on federal, not Inuit, land.
And, as these scenarios play out, people continue to look the other way as outrageous amounts of country food is sold, mainly to the folks in Baffin, with most of it being for green in the pocket, not warmth in the heart.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) believes we’ve reached the point where all barren ground caribou should be listed as “threatened.” And there are more who believe that point has already been passed.
At last count, the number of barren ground caribou hovered around 600,000, stretching from Quebec to the Yukon, but new numbers on the tuktu population are expected to be released this week or next.
I have extreme confidence in the man who headed the count on the Qamanirjuaq herd that means so much to the Kivalliq, and who will be unveiling that number before this month is through.
Once the numbers are released, it falls to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and 28 Hunters and Trappers Organizations to take the action, if any, they deem necessary.
It was the same on the coast, as everyone watched and waited for some magical solution to the codfish dilemma. But instead of anything appearing, the lifeblood of our region disappeared and with it, a way of life.
Right now, at this very minute, the same path is being followed here.