PCMB responds to interim caribou harvest restrictions

The Porcupine Caribou Management Board understands what the government of Yukon is trying to do with its interim caribou harvesting regulations. It's the same thing as the board is trying to do - protect the Porcupine caribou herd for future generations.

The Porcupine Caribou Management Board understands what the government of Yukon is trying to do with its interim caribou harvesting regulations. It’s the same thing as the board is trying to do – protect the Porcupine caribou herd for future generations. The difference is that the board wants to meet the same objective by consensus. No easy task, indeed. But consensus on a harvest management plan is the most viable solution for long-term support and compliance with decisions.

Co-management can be a challenge, to say the very least. Overcoming the challenges brings benefits to all parties. The board’s eight members represent the governments of Canada, Yukon and Northwest Territories as well as all the Canadian aboriginal user groups. Each organization appoints its own member to the board to bring forward its perspectives, concerns and ideas. To be sure, every one of the groups is concerned about the herd’s decline and its sustainability.

The board’s responsibility is to ensure there will be enough caribou to hunt now and for future generations. Conservation of the herd is of critical importance to the board. The health of the herd is discussed at every board meeting, and conservation and sustainability of the herd is at the forefront of members’ minds in all the board’s activities.

The board realizes that with rights come responsibilities. The First Nations have already begun to encourage their members to change their harvest practices. Most of the First Nations also engage in hunter education and other ways to reduce hunting stress on the herd. Where there are harvesting regulations, there is always a possibility that Aboriginal rights can be infringed on, and years of expensive court challenges over the legality of the regulations can distract us from our real objective – protecting the herd. It is better to come to a consensus, working with all the parties, as to when rights need to be limited for conservation.

However, if one voluntarily chooses not to exercise a right, that right has not been taken away. With co-operation under the harvest management plan, the interim measures should not be necessary. In the recommended Harvest Management Plan, if the herd reaches the orange zone, then all Parties agree mandatory limits would be necessary to reduce harvest.

The board does not make any laws or regulations. Instead, it makes recommendations to governments and the other parties about laws and regulations or other matters that affect the herd and its habitat. Whenever possible, the board attempts to work on a problem until all board members agree about what to do and what to recommend. Board members agree that compromising once in a while is better than having all the groups working separately. Compromise is often required, but all members’ first loyalty is to the sustainability and well-being of the herd.

Last June, the board recommended a harvest management plan for the Porcupine caribou herd to the parties of the Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement. That plan contained the best recommendations that the board was able to make, based on scientific research, traditional knowledge, extensive community discussions and a good number of compromises.

All parties agree that the goal of conservation should never be compromised, but the parties also recognize that there are different ways of achieving that goal. The board is of the view that implementing a cooperative management plan for the herd that all users agree with would result in the best success in harvest management in the long term.

With the change from use of a tag to ensure mandatory harvest reporting to just “mandatory reporting” makes these interim measures even closer to the measures outlined in the harvest management plan already. Yet the plan would have the support of all the parties.

The board appreciates government of Yukon’s desire to take action more quickly than the board and the user communities have been moving with the development of a harvest management plan. The board also recognizes that the governments have the right to enact regulations, regardless of any recommendation from the board.

Although the board voted against the government of Yukon’s interim measures, as it was felt the primary attention should be on finalizing the co-operative harvest management plan as soon as possible, the board has clearly agreed with the concept of focusing harvest on bulls. In fact, it has been working hard to effect this change and others in the user communities. As a result, there has been a noticeable shift in the sex ratio and the number of caribou harvested, as observed by conservation officers and others – before the interim measures were implemented.

Government of Yukon is calling its regulations “interim measures” that will be in place until a harvest plan has been finalized. This is more reason for the parties and the board to continue to work together to find a way to iron out a consensus sooner rather than later. A meeting among parties is planned in the near future to review the points of difference and work out an agreement that all parties, including government of Yukon, can accept. Part of that meeting is to discuss an implementation plan that will identify actions for all parties.

Conservation is critical – the board is committed to achieving that goal by consensus of government and the user groups as the best way to protect the herd. Co-management means that people must be part of the solution. All parties need to be present and engaged at the table to determine the best approach to harvest management – an approach that first and foremost meets the goal of long-term sustainability and conservation of the herd.

For further information or to view the recommended harvest management plan, visit our website at www.taiga.net/pcmb or contact our office.