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Consultations underway on dwindling Baffin Island caribou

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

Community consultations about low caribou numbers have been underway this week in the Baffin region of Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

The Nunavut government and Inuit organizations are hearing from people affected by the scarcity of caribou on Baffin Island.

In 2012, an aerial survey of southern Baffin Island confirmed the drastic decline in numbers.

Biologists estimated fewer than 5,000 animals remain in the South Baffin. In the 1990s, estimates based on smaller scale surveys and local knowledge put the number between 60,000 and 180,000.

Jaylene Goorts, a biologist with the Nunavut Department of Environment, said it may be premature to assess what measures could be taken. However, some ideas are being discussed, such as limiting the number of caribou per household or restricting the harvest to bulls only, and not females with calves, she said.

“We’re just trying to gather suggestions at this point,” Goorts said. “Things that communities can suggest for conservation actions that can be taken by communities.”

If restrictions on caribou hunting are put in place, it will be a first for Inuit on Baffin Island.

Another aerial survey is planned this winter that will cover the whole Baffin region.

The consultation group has been in Arctic Bay and has plans to visit the communities of Igloolik, Hall Beach and Kimmirut.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.