The Nunavut government in Canada has imposed a total allowable harvest on the Dolphin and Union caribou herd after a survey showed the population had plummeted from 18,000 to 4,000. It's the first time any hunting restrictions have been imposed on the herd, which migrates between Victoria Island and the Nunavut mainland.
The Nunavut government announced that just 42 animals could be taken from the herd. The Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board will decide who gets to take the animals.
Last year hunters took 150 to 200 animals from the herd. There are many reasons for the herd's decline and a major factor is climate change. The herd is named for the Dolphin and Union Strait, which makes up part of the stretch of sea ice over which the animals migrate twice a year.
“Dolphin and Union caribou are especially vulnerable to the effects of a warmer climate as later formation of sea-ice leads to increased risk of drowning deaths while crossing the thinner ice," reads a 2013 assessment from the N.W.T. Species At Risk Committee.
And during spring, caribou may swim through channels of water in the ice and not be able to get out. Under the Nunavut Agreement, the minister of Environment can impose an interim total allowable harvest when there is a conservation concern, but further restrictions must be imposed with community consultation.