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March 17, 2009

First Nations, Animal Protection and Conservation Groups Unite to Save Bears in BC's Great Bear Rainforest

Groups call on BC Government to end trophy hunting of bears before April 1

Humane Society International/Canada

BRITISH COLUMBIA — First Nations, animal protection and conservation groups have united to protect bears from cruel and unsustainable trophy hunts. At a press conference today, the groups urged the British Columbian government to end trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest prior to the opening of the spring bear hunt on April 1.

"One might expect that in the Great Bear Rainforest, bears could live and thrive in peace," said Bruce Passmore, director of outreach for Humane Society International/Canada. "But trophy hunting of bears is still permitted in the Great Bear Rainforest, even in protected areas. It is time for the provincial government to heed public opinion, the best available science and economics by giving these magnificent animals the protection they need to survive."

According to a 2009 Ipsos Reid poll, 78 percent of British Columbia residents oppose trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. First Nations groups are in agreement and also want an end to the trophy hunting of bears.

Kitasoo/Xaixais Chief Percy Starr is disappointed that all species of bears in their Traditional Territory are not protected. "We've spent years to ensure our lands are protected, only to learn that trophy hunters can continue to come on our lands and kill bears for sport."

"It's not right that anyone should make a sport of killing," said Guujaaw, a spokesperson for Coastal First Nations. "Bears are as much a part of the environment as we are."

Conservationists argue that hunting poses a threat to bear populations, noting that of the 430 grizzly bears killed in BC in 2007, 87 percent were killed by trophy hunters. Bears are often gunned down by trophy hunters near shorelines as they forage for food in the spring and fall, in some cases only days after bear viewing operations have left the area. Black bears are also at risk. The BC coast has one of the greatest diversity of black bears subspecies in North America, ranging from the spirit bear (kermode subspecies) to the Haida black bear.

"The white spirit bear may be protected in the Great Bear Rainforest, however, the black bear which carries the gene necessary for the genetic diversity of white bears can still be killed," said Ian McAllister, director of Pacific Wild. "The sport hunting of bears does not make scientific sense. How can the government declare the Great Bear Rainforest is protected while it allows the trophy hunt to threaten bear populations?"

Trophy hunting is also negatively impacting BC's lucrative ecotourism industry, as bears generate more income for coastal communities alive than dead. One bear watching operation alone in Knight Inlet grossed over $3 million in direct revenue in 2007 — more than all trophy hunting revenue combined.

"Each bear killed is one less bear that tourists will pay top dollar to photograph," said Dean Wyatt of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association. "Viewers come back year after year to watch the same bears and their young develop and grow. Only a total ban on trophy hunting will ensure that bear populations can support the high-end viewing operations that add valuable income to coastal communities."

B-roll footage is available for download here.

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than ten million members and constituents globally—On the Web at hsicanada.ca.

The Coastal First Nations is an alliance of First Nations on British Columbia's North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. Our goal is to restore responsible land, water and resource management approaches on the Central and North Coast of British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii that are ecologically, socially and economically sustainable. We have developed partnerships with environmental groups, the federal and provincial governments, municipal leaders, industry and other interests to begin the move to a new conservation-based economy with increased First Nations involvement through strong leadership and vision. Members of the Coastal First Nations include Wuikinuxv Nation, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Holmalco, Gitga'at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation.

Pacific Wild is a BC-based non-profit society dedicated to wilderness and wildlife conservation. We work in partnership with a diverse group of organizations and individuals working to achieve lasting environmental protection. Pacific Wild founders and staff have been working on marine and terrestrial environmental campaigns in British Columbia for two decades. 

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