I posed a question to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations today asking how many Grizzly Bears he believes reside in the Great Bear Rainforest. I further asked the Minister if his government supports an immediate moratorium to trophy killing in the Great Bear Rainforest. Below is the excerpt from Hansard. His response will not give heart to those who are working so diligently to protect this iconic species.
TROPHY KILLING AND POPULATION STATUS OF GRIZZLY BEARS
A. Weaver: I just wish to change topic for a second and give the Minister of Finance a break. My question is posed to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
British Columbia is blessed to be home of the world’s largest pristine coastal temperate forest, the Great Bear rainforest. Tourists flock there every year from around the world to watch grizzly bears in their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, this iconic species is also subject to trophy killing. Twice a year a few wealthy foreigners, predominantly from the U.S., fly into the forest to shoot bears, cut off their heads and leave the bodies to rot. This so-called sport has been banned by nine coastal First Nations and is opposed by nearly 90 percent of British Columbians and, importantly, 95 percent of hunters.
Can the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations please tell the House precisely how many grizzly bears there are left in the Great Bear rainforest?
Hon. S. Thomson: I acknowledge that the member opposite comes from a different place on this particular issue than we do on this side of the House. Our approach to wildlife management, to hunting in British Columbia, is based on a long history of best available science, based on an approach that hunting is an important part of population management and conservation in British Columbia.
The decisions are based on best available science, are based on conservative estimates of human mortality, are based on conservative estimates — deliberately conservative estimates — of regular mortality for species. That’s not just for grizzly bears. That’s for all species in the province.
Madame Speaker, 58 percent of the territory of the coastal First Nations is closed to grizzly bear hunting. There are about 2,000 bears in the Great Bear rainforest, of which less than 1 percent, 13, are hunted.
Madame Speaker: Member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head on a supplemental.
A. Weaver: I would argue, as clearly indicated, that we actually have no idea how many grizzly bears there are in the Great Bear rainforest, let alone elsewhere in British Columbia. Fortunately, however, in the case of the former, a coalition of nine First Nations, scientists and environmental groups have been undertaking fieldwork on bear populations, breeding habits and the impacts of trophy killing.
Here’s what we do know. In the Great Bear rainforest bear viewing generates 12 times more in visitor spending than bear killing — over 11 times the direct revenue for British Columbia’s provincial government. Bear viewing also generates 50 times the number of jobs as trophy killing. And forest companies and environmental groups have reached a historic agreement on the preservation of the Great Bear rainforest.
In light of the evidence I’ve provided, would the government support an immediate moratorium on trophy killing of grizzly bears in the Great Bear rainforest?
Hon. S. Thomson: Firstly, I want to acknowledge the member opposite’s reference to the agreement that’s been reached between environmental organizations and the forest industry in the Great Bear rainforest. I think that’s something that we can all celebrate — that very, very important step. We look forward to continuing to work with both the industry, those organizations and First Nations in the implementation of that very, very historic, important agreement.
I think the important point to make here is that this is not about either-or. This is about the important contribution that bear viewing and tourism make. It’s also about the important contribution that hunting makes to this province — $360 million annually.
This is not about one or the other. This is about making sure that we manage populations based on science, as I pointed out, based on conservation principles, to ensure that we create that appropriate balance, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
In our population units for grizzly bears, wherever those populations are at risk, we don’t allow hunting. That’s the case in many of the population units in British Columbia currently. If the populations are at risk, we will not allow hunting in those population units.