On Monday, the department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) submitted its Joint Management Plan for the Bluenose-East Herd to the Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board (WRRB).
This came as news to the Economic Development and Environment committee as the ENR held a public briefing on the latest caribou survey results on Wednesday.
MLA Kevin O’Reilly was surprised that ENR hadn’t consulted the committee before submitting the plan to WRRB.
He asked the department do so before submitting its management plan for the Bathurst herd, which will be done by early next week according to ENR.
More of the same
The survey results were released last November and saw the two main barren-ground herds’ numbers continue to dwindle.
The Bluenose-East herd has declined by about 50 per cent, down to 19,000 animals; the Bathurst herd has gone down 60 per cent to 8,200 animals.
The Bluenose-East plan submitted on Monday essentially tweaks protection measures that are already in place.
It would reduce the Total Allowable Harvest from 750 to 300 animals, recommends increased monitoring and doing surveys every two years instead of three, as well as introduce new incentives for wolf harvesting among other measures.
Deputy Minister Joe Dragon said there’s a separate proposal specifically dealing with predator management, which should be in place by July.
However, department spokesperson Meagan Wohlberg says it’s establishing a Wolf Harvest Incentive Area for the current winter season that overlaps with the wintering range of both herds. Wolves harvested in the area could fetch up to $1,650—$900 for the carcass, $400 for a pelt prepared to traditional or taxidermy standard and another $350 if the pelt meets the requirements of the Genuine Mackenzie Fur Program.
During the presentation, Dragon said there were about 40 wolves harvested in the area, but according to O’Reilly, the numbers are still nowhere near where they would need to be for effective management.
He referenced the Wolf Technical Feasibility Assessment which recommends harvesting 60-80 per cent of the pack to be an effective management strategy and 80 to 100 need to be harvested to allow the Bathurst herd numbers to increase.
“To increase the incentive, I’m not sure that’s actually going to cut it in terms of predator control,” said O’Reilly.
He also asked about the use of mobile conservation measures—essentially a moving zone where caribous can’t be hunted.
While there’s been a zone of this kind in place since winter 2014 for the Bathurst herd, Dragon said the submitted plan didn’t recommend one for the Bluenose-East.
In an email, Wohlberg said the Bathurst no-go zone was created as a harvest restriction.
Implementation and results
ENR is waiting on the final decision from the WRRB before saying what kind of costs are associated to the implementation of the management plan, but Wohlberg said “the recommendations will cost additional resources.”
During the presentation, Deputy Minister Joe Dragon reiterated that caribou populations are known to have large increases, followed by severe declines. This is borne out by both scientific surveys and traditional knowledge, he said.
CKLB also asked about how the department will measure the effectiveness of the program given this information and that it’s largely adopting the same protection measures while herd numbers keep falling.
“There are a multitude of complicated factors that affect caribou populations—some of which we have no control over,” wrote Wohlberg. “It is important that we manage the herds responsibly and work together to support them through this current low.”
She added that ENR will continue to work with its co-management partners and use “scientific, traditional and local knowledge” for sustainable management.
ENR says it developed the current plan with the Tłı̨chǫ Government, while management in the Sahtú is done through the Caribou for All Time Plan developed by Délįne.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated the mobile conservation measure currently in place for the Bathurst herd was created “due to the “cumulative effects of development on the herd’s range.” This was incorrect.