MA, Major Research Paper (Institute of Environmental Sustainability): Caribou Variability and Inuit Food Security: A case study of Iqaluit and the Baffin Island Caribou herd. (Oct. 2015 – Aug. 2016)
The relationship between food security and climate change in Canada has largely been addressed in the context of large-scale agriculture-based food systems but there have been few studies considering how smaller, subsistence-based food systems are affected. Moreover, there are distinctive food security considerations for First Nations and Inuit related to the harvesting and consumption of traditional foods, which impacts the commonly considered dimensions of food security: access, availability, supply and utilization. Due to shifting away from a traditional to more modernized economy, there has been increased competition between traditional food consumption and a more westernized diet which can be conceptualized as a “nutrition transition”. However, traditional foods still make up a large proportion of people’s diets and, in combination with store-bought foods, remain integral to the contemporary Inuit food system. Climate change appears correlated with increased variability of traditional food sources such as caribou, which may be impacting local food security for First Nations communities.
This research paper sought to investigate this relationship by using a case study of the Baffin Island caribou herd, which has recently plummeted to critically low levels of abundance, and its impact on the community of Iqaluit. The research found that climate variability caused a decrease in the availability of caribou likely due to the subsequent shift in their distribution as a result of changing ability to access forage. While this created a shortage of caribou meat in Iqaluit, it can be argued that broader socioeconomic conditions such as poverty and unemployment were more pressing than environmental conditions in terms of food security determinants among those living in Iqaluit.