A caribou swims across the Fortymile River. (Ned Rozell/Yukon News file)

Environment Yukon cancels outfitters’ Finlayson caribou quotas for 2019-20 season

The two affected outfitters will have their Finlayson quotas reduced to zero next year

Two hunting outfitters in the Yukon with quotas for the Finlayson caribou herd will not be allowed to harvest any of the animals next hunting season.

Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn confirmed Aug. 7 that the department has decided to reduce the quotas of the outfitting companies to zero for 2019-20. The department notified the outfitters — Yukon Big Game Outfitters and Ceasar Lake Outfitters — about the decision shortly before Aug. 1.

The owners of both companies declined to comment for this story.

The quota reduction is part of the territorial government’s response to Ross River Dena Council’s (RRDC) concerns about moose and caribou populations within its traditional territory. Environment Yukon has also cancelled this year’s Finlayson caribou permit hunt.

Outfitters are still allowed to harvest Finlayson caribou this season because Environment Yukon has a policy of giving outfitters at least one year’s notice before changing their quotas. Stasyszyn said it’s too early to say what will happen for the 2019-20 Finlayson caribou permit hunt, and that options include reducing the number of permits available or cancelling the hunt again.

“All of those conversations are happening still, so no decision has been made yet,” she said.

In a phone interview Aug. 7, Yukon Outfitters Association executive director Shawn Wasel said there’s “clearly there’s a business concern any time access to the resource is reduced,” but emphasized that caribou conservation is a “priority” for outfitters.

“Our interest is in caribou conservation first and foremost.… We want to truly understand what are the mechanisms keeping that population low and look at some management strategies to reverse that,” he said.

“Specific to the Finlayson (herd), we’d like to take some time to evaluate what the specific conservation concerns are… I think (Environment Yukon is) taking a precautionary approach and we need to get some good scientific information about what is the actual population out there, and what in fact is causing the decline.”

Wasel added that the association has reached out to RRDC but, to date, has not had a detailed conversation with the First Nation. It’s also unclear how RRDC’s new hunting rules for the 2018-19 season, which include the introduction of its own hunting permit system for non-Kaska hunters in the Ross River area and a moratorium on hunting in 11 areas, will affect outfitters.

“I think traditional knowledge certainly helps make informed decisions and about the caribou in particular and their status and historic range, but if there truly is a conservation concern, then we’d like to delve into the details of what the mechanisms are … and then manage it accordingly,” Wasel said.

RRDC declined to comment for this story.

Stasyszyn has previously told the News that, on the territorial government’s side, Environment Yukon looks at more than just science when making wildlife management decisions.

“Scientific data, together with traditional and on-the-land knowledge as well as First Nation concerns, they all play a role in guiding management decisions like whether harvest restrictions should be put in place,” she said.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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