BC Liberals unveiled a promise to work with Coastal First Nations to end the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest as part of their new platform, which constitutes a major victory for Coastal First Nations and environmental groups that have been working for years to end the controversial practice in Coastal First Nation territories. However, this seems to be a calculated move by BC Liberals to garner headlines and steal some thunder from the NDP which has promised to end the trophy hunt of grizzlies province-wide, while BC Liberals have in fact recently extended the hunting season until June 15 for 2017.
"It is a welcome development to have both major parties supporting the call to end the grizzly hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest. It shows how mainstream this issue has become. The evidence is overwhelming as there is no economic, ecological or ethical justification for continuing the hunt. That said, the Liberals need to clarify whether their announcement applies to the entirety of the Great Bear Rainforest or only Coastal First Nations territory, as that is not exactly clear from the statement they put out yesterday," said Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
While the election promise could be a step in the right direction, it will save only about 11 grizzlies annually according to Steve Thomson, a small number compared to the 300 grizzlies hunted in the whole of the province. As Julius Strauss, owner and operator of Grizzly Bear Ranch said in a statement: “While this is certainly welcome news it does not address 90% of the issue. Bear-viewing brings in more than ten times what grizzly hunting does and many operators are not in the Great Bear Rainforest.”
He also pointed out that a recent poll showed that the whole of British Columbia, including the Interior, is opposed to the hunt by an overwhelming majority and wants to ban the practice.
The questions that arise are therefore: Will BC Liberals simply attempt to shift the conversation on this issues, while at the same time re-allocating the resident hunting tags to other areas of the province? Also what happens to the tenure licenses in the Great Bear Rainforest? Will they be allowed to expire? Will the province facilitate a sale of these licenses and who determines the value of those licenses? There are a lot of unanswered questions about the change in policy, which so far constitutes no more than a campaign promise with obvious political motivations, especially given that the BC Liberal’s Vancouver Island candidate, Darren DeLuca is well known for being a member or the Safari Club International and for running the Vancouver Island Guide Outfitters, a company that runs guided trophy hunts for foreigners.
First Nations have seen many promises broken over the years and there is certainly no guarantee that the BC Liberals will stick to their promise once re-elected and it seems of little help to the rest of the province where bear viewing operations simply cannot coexist with resident hunters who pose an obvious threat to bear viewing groups trying to photograph grizzlies while hunters are out to shoot them. Julius Strauss as well as the recent Grizzly Bear Foundation report also pointed out that there is a strong indication that the Limited Entry Hunt for resident hunters is run at a net-loss to the province, due to the enormous costs associated with the harvest allocation system.
So while this announcement may represent a step in the right direction it is far from being a reversal in policy for BC Liberals and certainly not an end in the struggle to ban grizzly bear trophy hunting in British Columbia.