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Looking for country food sources

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 16, 2012

Five muskoxen populations in the Kitikmeot region should be considered options for harvesting, the Department of Environment says, advising that more studies should be done to see if harvesting the populations would be sustainable.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nunavut anti-poverty secretariat director Ed McKenna wants to help Nunavummiut access country food, but only if the species populations are sustainable. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

"Hopefully it will result in better access to wildlife for local consumption, but it has to be sustainable," said Ed McKenna, Nunavut anti-poverty secretariat director. "We have to be very smart about the way we undertake harvesting them."

The report comes in response to a request by the anti-poverty secretariat to see if there are any sustainable populations it could recommend for increased harvesting to improve access to country food, and therefore increase food security. The Department of Environment looked for untapped sustainable sources of caribou, muskoxen and reindeer in Nunavut.

"If you want to reduce poverty, you have to address food security issues, and you need to ensure people have greater access to country food," McKenna said. "Harvesting is increasingly expensive and out of reach for many people now. Some species used for country food are becoming increasingly difficult to find or more expensive to reach. Caribou's not readily available adjacent to communities on Baffin Island the way it was 10 years ago."

The report found that it's too early in the data collection process for the anti-poverty secretariat to push for increased harvesting of caribou and reindeer for the purpose of encouraging country food consumption.

There are five muskox sub-populations in the Kitikmeot region that could be "good candidates for a community-based harvesting program, pending human and financial resources to update population's status and implement adequate monitoring linked to an eventual increase in harvest pressure," the report states.

"Data gaps currently exist in our understanding of the demographic status of many of these populations," the report's authors wrote. "For muskoxen, a few management units may be good candidates for implementation of a community-based harvesting program, yet resources to update and monitor these populations would be necessary to ensure their sustainability."

The report's authors warn that unsustainable harvesting of Barren Ground caribou could be the cause of declines in some herd populations across the territory.

In addition, some Sanikiluaq residents are concerned about increased harvesting of reindeer there.

Meanwhile, Peary caribou are an endangered species and harvesting should be done only according to recommendations in the federal recovery strategy and territorial management plan, the report states.

The report's authors recommend diversifying country food sources to include moose in the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions, and small game such as ptarmigan, Arctic hare and ground squirrel.

"Country food, harvested locally, is preferred by many Nunavummiut who want affordable and nutritious food," stated Peter Taptuna, minister of the Department of Economic Development and Transportation in a press release. "We need to work with the Department of Environment to make sure that sources of country food harvested today will remain available in the future."

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