Québec court to rule on caribou hunting moratorium

Québec courts are expected to deliver a decision soon on the current moratorium on hunting of the woodland caribou in northern Québec, according to Steeve Côté (spelling correct) of Université Laval in Québec City. The moratorium has been challenged by native peoples, Cree and Innu, for whom caribou hunting is an essential aspect of culture and history, as well as the main source of food for many communities. The moratorium was imposed in 2005 when the species was declared vulnerable, according to the Québec government’s Web site. Côté is studying the effect of climate change on the two herds — the Rivière-Georges herd and the Rivière aux feuilles herd — in the Ungava peninsula of northern Quebec and Labrador. As temperatures rise, there are positive and negative effects on the herds. Loss of ice cover is increasing the populations of biting insects, which harass the caribou. Loss of snow cover makes caribou more vulnerable to wolves, because the caribou can’t see the wolves as easily. Lichens — the caribou’s winter food — are decreasing; but vegetation overall is increasing, and many caribou are eating well during the summer. The Rivière-Georges herd’s numbers are dropping fast, and its territory diminishing, whereas the Rivière aux feuilles herd is increasing in size and territory. — from the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Meeting May 9-12.

Extent and age of arctic sea ice 1979-2010 – Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, May 2010

The linked animated map shows monthly change in sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The pink dots are the tagged buoys that gathered these data. The white areas are multi-year sea ice – described by Louis Fortier of Université Laval as the “capital” on which the “interest” of new yearly ice grows. Blue areas show annual ice accumulation. Pretty stunning evidence of climate change. From last week’s Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution meeting in Québec.

Shark attack – Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, 2010 Meeting

Porbeagles – one of Canada’s most populous sharks – travel all the way to the Sargasso Sea to give birth. Pregnant females leave their usual haunts on the Georges Bank shared by Canada and the US to travel the thousands of kilometres to their nursery. Lovers of cold water, the porbeagles dive more than a kilometre down, swimming underneath the Gulf Stream. This takes them to a safe destination, avoiding the active fishery off eastern Canada and the US. Porbeagles have been subject to fishing since the 1960s, when the Norwegians started to fish them. Their meat is popular in Europe. Overfishing caused the population to drop to an all-time low about five years ago, but scientists raised the alarm. Fishers and scientists cooperated to impose an 80% cut to the catch quota (and a further 10% cut), with good results. The population is beginning to rise and is hoped to remain sustainable. — From a presentation at the CSEE conference this week by Steven Campana of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Bedford Institute of Oceanography