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.
Today I attended a rally on the lawn of the legislature in support of a province wide ban on trophy killing of an iconic species: The Grizzly Bear. For more information on the Save BC Bears campaign, please visit their Facebook page. Below is the text of my speech at the rally.
Thank you all for coming to this very important event.
The Orca is an iconic species in British Columbia. And so too are Grizzly bears.
Would we condone the trophy killing of an Orca — just for the heck of it? Obviously not. Yet we allow the trophy killing of Grizzly bears — just for the heck of it.
The Coastal First Nation Great Bear initiative recently conducted a province-wide survey. Almost 90% of British Columbians believe that trophy killing of grizzly bears should be banned.
And this number is also important: 95% of hunters agree that people should not be hunting if they are not prepared to eat what they kill.
91% of hunters agree that fellow hunters should respect First Nations laws and customs when on First Nation territory.
In the case of the Great Bear Rainforest, bear viewing generated 12 times more in visitor spending than bear killing and over 11 times in direct revenue for BC’s provincial government.
Bear viewing generated 50 times the jobs of trophy killing.
When we think about habitat, climate and the impacts we are having on iconic species like Grizzlies look no further than what has happened this winter in Europe.
Due to an incredibly mild winter, bears in Finland have come out early from hibernation into an environment with little food. The climate in BC is rapidly changing as well. We have had one of the driest winters on record, with low snow pack – how will this affect food supply for BC Grizzlies, and their population? We have simply no idea.
We have no idea how many Grizzly bears there are in BC. We have no idea how they are responding to climate change.
But here’s what I know: I know what I want — I know what you want — I know what BC hunters want — and I know what the people of BC want.
A province wide ban on trophy killing.
And I reiterate again, we’re not taking today about the majority of hunters in BC harvesting deer and other species for food.
This is all about a government protecting a small lobby of well-heeled jet setters looking to tick one more item off their bucket list.
We have an opportunity right now in the Great Bear Rainforest. A coalition of 9 First Nations, scientists and environmental groups have been undertaking field work on bear populations, breeding habits, and the impacts of trophy killing. They’ve done extensive analysis. At the same time, forest companies and environmental groups have reached an agreement on the preservation of the Great Bear rainforest.
That region must be immediately declared a sanctuary
Despite the objections of Coastal First Nations, and the majority of British Columbians, the provincial government is considering expanding areas where grizzly bears can be hunted.
A study conducted by the Centre for Responsible Tourism, and funded by Tides Canada, concluded that bear watching ecotourism is more profitable than trophy hunting.
In a BC1, Global News interview on ‘Unfiltered’ hosted by Jill Krop, Andrew Weaver takes on the BC Outfitters Association over the economic, environmental and moral arguments of grizzly bear trophy hunting.
View the video here.