N.W.T. Bans Caribou Hunt Advertising

An interim ban on hunting caribou has been in effect since Jan. 1, covering areas considered to be the Bathurst caribou herd's winter grounds. (CBC)Caribou hunting outfitters in the Northwest Territories could lose their tourism licences if they advertise hunts in areas covered by a controversial caribou hunting ban.

The warning came from a letter this month from the N.W.T. Industry, Tourism and Investment Department, which issues tourism operator licences to outfitters and other tourism operators that have lodges or other permanent structures.

In the letter, obtained by CBC News, the department says it has added a condition to its 2010-11 licence that prohibits outfitters from advertising or selling caribou hunts where the caribou hunting ban is in effect.

“Advertising and/or selling outfitted caribou hunts in these areas would be a breach of the terms and conditions of your licence and an offence under the Tourism Act,” states the letter, which is signed by North Slave regional superintendent Kevin Todd.

Current ads must go

Todd wrote that outfitters must remove any current advertising that mentions caribou hunts.

“Failure to do so may result in charges under the Tourism Act and/or the cancellation or suspension of your licence,” he wrote.

The N.W.T. caribou hunting ban has been in effect since Jan. 1 in an area north of Great Slave Lake, considered to be the winter grounds for the Bathurst caribou herd.

The territorial government banned hunting in that area over concerns about the herd’s dwindling numbers. But Dene hunters, who have long relied on caribou meat, are challenging the ban in court.

“I’m not about to stop advertising. Prior to any of these announcements on caribou, I had signed a $90,000 contract for advertising,” Barry Taylor of Arctic Safaris, an outfitting company, told CBC News on Wednesday.

‘I’m in limbo’: outfitter

While outfitters with lodges must get a tourism licence from the Industry, Tourism and Investment Department, the Environment and Natural Resources Department distributes outfitter licences and caribou hunting tags.

Taylor said he and other hunting outfitters are still waiting for word from environment officials on whether caribou hunting will be allowed in the fall.

Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger is expected to make a decision after the Wek’eezhii Renewable Resources Board issues its recommendations on the issue at the end of May.

“As an outfitter, I’m in limbo. I don’t know if I’ve got hunts or will have tags or not,” Taylor said.

“I warn everybody I talk to and it’s been well published on the net — ‘Don’t go to the Northwest Territories.’ Most of my hunters have cancelled because they need some lead time to book hotels, et cetera.”

Even if caribou hunting tags are allocated for a fall hunt, Taylor said he predicts it won’t be a good season for him.

At the same time, he said he understands the N.W.T. government’s position on the caribou hunting ban and what it hopes to accomplish.

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