The Caribou hunting season has opened in designated zones in Labrador, four months later than anticipated.
While the wait is over, the patience from some community leaders and concerned hunters in the region is beginning to wear thin.
Some say the province is once again not taking any action when it comes to enforcing their own rules for hunting and management of caribou herds.
Tony Chubbs, wildlife biologist and President of the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association, told the Labradorian he had reports this month from local hunters who witnessed individuals going into closed zoned areas such as Cache River and killing caribou from both harvest-managed and endangered herd populations.
"There should be no hunting in closed zones," said Chubbs. "That is total disregard for conservation."
Chubbs says enforcement efforts need to be put in place to curb the illegal hunting of the monitored and protected caribou species in the area. He said there has been less and less monitoring in Labrador over the last couple of years.
He also said the association would like to see regulations being enforced uniformly.
"There's not enough caribou in the George River herd for everybody on the north coast of Labrador and on the north east coast of Quebec to kill two or three caribou per household. We can all do the math on that, if you have the number of people involved now, you can't do that."
Chubbs said that conservation measures are also being compromised when efforts to manage the caribou hunt in the province are not being implemented elsewhere.
"The unfortunate thing with most of the animals that are being killed now is a lot of those animals are not counted so government has no idea the actual number being killed."
Chubbs pointed out that only the licensed hunters are being monitored and asked to collect biological samples to monitor the herd health of caribou in Labrador.
"If one group receives all the restrictions and other groups don't, how do you meet your conservation objectives?"
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the Labradorian on Monday that, so far, there have been no reports of illegal hunting.
Vanessa Coleman-Sadd, in an email to the paper, said, "Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officers are on the ground and are observing the hunting of caribou. Their observations have shown that the hunting activity has been legal, occurring in open zones. If any illegal activity occurs, they will investigate to determine if charges are warranted."
Last year, caribou harvesters in Labrador reported witnessing illegal hunts being carried out by Quebec Innu. However, the Department of Justice says no charges have been laid againt Quebec Innu in the past two seasons.
Torngat Mountains MHA and Liberal Opposition Environment and Conservation Critic, Randy Edmunds feels what the province is doing is not enough. He recently wrote a letter to the Province on the caribou hunt and the new harvest management measures.
"We fully support these measures; yet, some Quebec residents are free to slaughter the herd in Labrador without any reprisals from the Dunderdale Government. This is unacceptable and reflects a double standard that discriminates against our people," he wrote.
The Minister for the Department of Environment and Conservation- Terry French was not available for comment on the matter.
The George River Caribou herd that is hunted in Labrador has been the target of monitoring efforts by both the Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador provincial wildlife departments.
According to the Department of Environment and Conservation's estimates, the herd has declined more than 80 percent in the last decade. Data collected in 2001 estimated the caribou population at 385,000. This number dropped to 75,000 in 2010.
According to studies done in over the years by the two provinces, there has been a steady rate of decline in the George River caribou herd since the early 90s, which have resulted in stricter regulations being placed on the hunt.
In the 2011 budget, the province set aside $1.9 million for a three-year caribou management initiative in Labrador.
In December, the Department of Environment and Conservation said they would be continuing to work with aboriginal groups, relevant stakeholders and Quebec Government to monitor the harvesting of the caribou herd using a ‘cross-jurisdictional approach.'
They also outlined the new harvest measurement plan for the 2011-2012 season.
Under the plan, the length of the hunting season of the George River herd was reduced from an eight-month period to three months; a limit of one caribou per household was put in place as well as a complete suspension of license transfers and "non-resident caribou hunting via the use of outfitters". In addition to further monitoring efforts, the Department is requesting that hunters participate in taking biological samples from the caribou to assist with the Government's observations of the herd's health.