Scientists say caribou is the new cod as supply dwindles

The Canadian Press (Bob Weber) – Once, caribou wandered over the Arctic tundra in herds that took days to pass. So great were their numbers — even 20 years ago — that they were able to shake off man’s puny imprint on the great barren lands like so many flies on a rump … Today, scientists fear caribou are the new cod. “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.

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