The government’s widely anticipated announcement on grizzly bear hunting last August contained a strange “loophole” – hunting grizzlies for meat would still be permitted outside the Great Bear Rainforest.
This was met with widespread criticism from First Nations, many environmental groups, activists and the general public.
However, after hearing from the public and stakeholders, the NDP announced a policy reversal last December, immediately implementing a total ban on hunting of grizzlies for trophies and food. About 78 per cent of that 4,180 emails the government received on the issue opposed a continued food hunt.
The only exception to the provincial hunting ban on grizzlies is First Nations, who maintain an Aboriginal right to hunt grizzlies for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
“Through consultations this past fall, we have listened to what British Columbians have to say on this issue and it is abundantly clear that the grizzly hunt is not in line with their values,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, “Our government continues to support hunting in this province and recognizes our hunting heritage is of great importance to many British Columbians.”
The spring grizzly bear hunt was scheduled to open on April 1, 2018, but the ban on hunting for resident and non-resident hunters takes effect immediately.
The total ban is good news for tourism, said Bella Coola Valley Tourism President, Tom Hermance.
“The ban on grizzly hunting is very good news for BC’s tourism industry. The ban will encourage more travelers to this area and help protect one of the Valley’s biggest assets,” said Hermance. “The response online has been overwhelmingly positive and appears to reflect of the values of our demographics.”
The original ban took effect on November 30, right after the scheduled 2017 fall hunt went ahead as planned. This last fall hunt saw the highest number of grizzlies taken in decades, a total of 159 bears, 53 of whom were female.
According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development a total of 307 grizzlies were killed by hunters in all of 2017, a 30 per cent increase over 235 in 2016 and the highest in years.
Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild, a vocal critic of the meat hunt since the announcement, said these last deaths were “needless” and could have been prevented.
“If they had focused on the conservation of grizzly bears while listening to the vast majority of British Columbians from the very beginning, over 150 grizzly bears would still be alive today,” said McAllister.
The government has not indicated it will support further bans on hunting of larger predators, nor is there any promise the ban will be permanent.
Environmental groups such as Rainforest Conservation Foundation have been purchasing guiding territories to pull them out of the hands of guide outfitters, and they support a total ban of large predator hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Raincoast’s Executive director Chris Genovali said the ban is an “enormous conservation victory” and the culmination of 20 years of conservation work. “It is incredibly gratifying to see it finally come to fruition.”
Coastal First Nations and the Central Coast Bear Working Group are celebrating the announcement; they had stated that trophy hunting was banned in the Great Bear Rainforest since 2012.
“We want to congratulate the BC government for enacting a grizzly bear hunting ban in Coastal First Nations territories, which is in line with our Indigenous Laws,” said Jessie Housty, a member of the Coastal First Nations Central Coast Bear Working Group. “We commend British Columbia for taking this important step toward reconciliation. Today’s announcement means we can now focus more of our energy on building a strong and sustainable coastal economy.”