Nunavut’s Dolphin and Union caribou herd deemed endangered – John Thompson (Nunatsiaq News – December 7, 2017)

A national committee of wildlife scientists now considers Nunavut’s Dolphin and Union caribou herd to be an endangered species. These stocky, large-hoofed animals spend their summers on Victoria Island and overwinter on the North American mainland. Their twice-a-year migrations across the sea ice of the Coronation Gulf have become increasingly perilous in recent years, as climate change causes the ice to freeze up later in the fall and to thaw earlier in the spring.

The growing use of icebreaking in the area is also being flagged as a major concern by scientists. The herd migrates across one of the routes of the Northwest Passage, which is seeing a growing number of transits.

And the herd roams not far from the proposed Grays Bay port and road that’s being aggressively pushed by the Government of Nunavut as a means of jump-starting mining projects in the region.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada announced this week it will ask Canada’s environment minister to list the herd as endangered under the Species At Risk Act in the autumn of 2018. If the species receives this listing, it would prompt the creation of a recovery strategy and implementation plan.

But the slow speed of federally mandated protections already triggered for the herd does not inspire confidence, says WWF-Canada.

The herd was previously assessed in 2004 as being a species of special concern. In February 2011, Canada adopted this designation under the Species at Risk Act. Nearly seven years later, a management plan is now in the final stages, but has yet to be completed.

“The next step after endangered is extinct. So you can’t wait until they cross into the next threshold again,” said Brandon Laforest, WWF-Canada’s senior specialist on Arctic species and ecosystems.

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