The second Annual ACCWM Status Meeting for the Bluenose-East, Bluenose-West, and Cape Bathurst caribou herds was held from November 21-23, 2017 in Yellowknife. Community knowledge and science were presented at the meeting and used to make decisions about the proposed status for each of the three herds. The first two days were open to the public and on the third day, the ACCWM met to review all its information and decide on a status recommendation for each herd, represented by a management colour zone.
“What we’re doing here is for the communities and for future generations.” - Joseph Judas, Tłı̨chǫ Government
Last year, the ACCWM assessed the Cape Bathurst herd as Red status (low population level) and the Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East herds as Orange status (intermediate population level and decreasing). Many of Canada’s ɂekwǫ̀ (barren-ground caribou) herds are decreasing. Ɂekwǫ̀ have been assessed as Threatened in Canada and also in the NWT. In particular, the Bluenose-East ɂekwǫ̀, found in Wek’èezhìı, fell from an estimated 68, 295 caribou in 2013 to 38,592 in 2015.
“We should be working together to solve the problem. The caribou don’t have a voice. We are the voice.” - Charles Pokiak, Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT)
The Taking Care of Caribou Management Plan guides the management of the Bluenose-East, Bluenose-West, and Cape Bathurst caribou herds. Its ultimate goal is to ensure there are caribou today and for future generations. The ACCWM’s work is guided by this Management Plan, which requires the ACCWM to meet once a year to review current information from community monitoring and science on the herds and their habitat.
As well as gathering information at the Status Meeting, the Tłı̨cho Government and the WRRB held focus group sessions earlier in all four Tłı̨cho communities in October – November to document Tłı̨cho knowledge on the Bluenose-East ɂekwǫ̀. Observations from community members on caribou health, population changes, caribou movements, habitat and other topics assisted the ACCWM in learning more about how these caribou are doing and how they can best be supported.
Deciding which actions to take and when depends on how a particular herd is doing. To assess a herd’s status, the ACCWM considers factors such as herd size and trend (i.e. whether the herd is increasing or decreasing), the body condition and health of the caribou, and the availability of the plants that caribou eat. Each herd status or colour zone has recommended management actions related to harvest management, predators, land use, habitat, and education.
A common theme expressed in the meetings was the need for more education. Joseph Judas spoke of how there are fewer hunters today and that it was important to teach future hunters when they’re young. Joseph opened the meeting with a traditional story to start the meeting off on the right foot and to show how the animals should be taken care of.
Joseph spoke about the people’s dependence on the caribou and how many things could be made from a single caribou. He told of a time in the past when there were no dog teams and people walked from place to place. In that time, an old woman heard a baby crying. There were caribou footprints close by, a sign of a big herd. The woman decided to raise the child who turned out to be powerful because he had come from the animals. As he grew, he showed himself to be a skillful hunter. “He was so lucky with caribou and always brought back meat for his mother.” He told his mother to make sure that no one steps over his blood. “That’s how much the animals were respected in those days,” Joseph explained. One day, someone did step over the blood, so the boy went up to the moon with a little bucket of blood. He was no longer a human being. “Every time we look at the moon”, Joseph said, “we can see him with his bucket standing on the moon.”
What happens next?
The ACCWM is now finalizing action plans for conserving the herds based on the information provided at the meeting. As a final step, following formal approval by the Member Boards, the action plans will be submitted to governments for implementation.
The WRRB is a member of the ACCWM, along with five other wildlife management boards that are in the range of the Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West and Bluenose-East caribou. They include:
Janet Winbourne (Technical Writer), Doug Doan (GRRB), Michael Neyelle (SRRB), Eugene Pascal (GRRB), Grant Pryznyk (WRRB), Larry Carpenter (WMAC-NWT), Larry Adjun (KRWB), Ron Allen (GRRB)
Jody Pellissey (WRRB), Édouard Boulanger (GRRB), Deborah Simmons (SRRB), Charles Pokiak (WMAC-NWT), Marsha Branigan (WMAC-NWT), Amanda Dumond (Kugluktuk HTO)