The new cod

Caribou herds continue to decline.

“If we want a counterpart to start looking at what may be happening with the caribou, look at the northern cod,” said Anne Gunn, a caribou biologist and former Northwest Territories researcher.

Once a gigantic bloom of life that sustained entire societies, the cod fishery was closed in 1992 after a near-total collapse of fish stocks. The subsequent bust of Newfoundland’s outport culture was nearly as complete.

Recent surveys on two major caribou herds in Canada’s North suggest the same thing may be happening there. And as scientists begin to unlock the secrets of that decline, aboriginals who still depend on the great herds to feed both body and soul are rethinking old assumptions.

“The elders are saying that there is a cycle, that caribou go away somewhere but they come back,” Nitsiza said. “This time, the caribou may not come back.”

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