By Martin Powell, EIA
For the first time in Canadian history, grizzly bears in the Province of British Columbia (BC) will not face hunters' bullets when they emerge from hibernation this spring.
Since the arrival of Europeans, grizzlies have been driven from 99 percent of their range in the continental United States, and much of Canada. BC forms the heartland of the species' remaining habitat, with the future of US populations to the south dependent on BC's bears, of which only 4-6,000 may remain.
As evidence has grown that hunting 300 of this officially at risk species each year in BC is unsustainable, so has the number of people who consider it unethical to sport hunt North America's slowest reproducing land mammal.
On an ecological level, some of the world's leading grizzly experts have expressed concern over the hunt for years, culminating in 68 professional biologists petitioning the BC Government in 1999. With fee-paying foreign tourists killing about half of all grizzlies hunted in BC in order to take the trophies home, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) decided to seek a ban on these exports under Canada's obligations to CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. As a result, in January biologists commissioned by the Canadian Government to review the issue sharply criticized the hunt, one stating "My professional opinion is that the hunt will be, and has been, harmful to the survival of grizzly bear populations."
As for economics, grizzly bear viewing is already worth far more than grizzly hunting, and tourism as a whole is worth $10 billion per year to BC. So it caused a huge stir last year when 50 UK and Irish travel companies and over 100 BC-based tourism businesses called for a suspension of the hunt because it harms the image of BC as a tourism destination.
With opinion polls showing 80 percent of people in BC supporting a ban, it was to widespread acclaim when the BC Premier announced in February a three year grizzly hunt moratorium whilst reliable population studies are carried out. The Premier described it as "…a prudent decision to protect and sustain grizzly bears in BC."
ACTION There is one shadow hanging over the moratorium. The BC Liberal Party (which is ahead in the polls) currently plans to overturn it if elected later this year. Please write to the BC Liberal party urging them to reconsider:
Gordon Campbell, BC Liberal Party Leader
Room 201 Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V88 1X4, Canada
Facsimile: (250) 356-3090
Top Photo: Presumably, fewer grizzly bear cubs in British Columbia will end up as orphans now that Premier Ujjal Dosanjh wisely stopped the hunt. (Craig Bennett/EIA)
Bottom Photo: After billboard campaigns were launched in BC and the UK by EIA, the grizzly hunt threatens to be a hot issue in the upcoming Provincial election. (Environmental Investigation Agency)