This essay was submitted to The Fur-Bearers by Natural Resource Protection student Lynnea Parker. It has been republished with her permission.
Commercialism in Wildlife Management and its Significance with Species Conservation in British Columbia
By Lynnea Parker | 2015-03-18Tina Loo’s book States of Nature examines the historical evolution of wildlife management throughout Canadian history. One of the major fundamental wildlife management decisions in Canadian history was the de-commercialization of wildlife and its parts. As colonizers moved further west, hunters who relied on nature for consumptive purposes, scientists and game managers quickly came to the realization that the wildlife landscape was not an unlimited resource, and most wildlife populations were declining. It was understood that “…no wild species can withstand commercial exploitation” (Loo 25). The regulation of hunting through the introductions of bag limits and restriction of sale “…were premised on a particular understanding of human nature, namely, that people were fundamentally greedy and motivated by the market, and that in the absence of state regulation, they would exhaust their resources” (Loo 26).
However, there is one major flaw to the current framework of wildlife management in Canada, and that is the indirect commercialization of wildlife through guide outfitting services. Guide outfitters have a large lobby group which puts pressure on provincial governments to increase allocations and quota percentages of harvested wildlife species. From a business perspective, financial growth and market security is needed in order to turn a profit on guiding services for national and international customers. Because the guide outfitting sector is large and provides jobs and revenue for provinces, it is in the best interest of the government to work with lobby groups. However, this is where the wildlife conservation mandate and commercialism conflict. When ministry biologists recognize that a species is declining and becoming vulnerable, demand for that species if often increasing at the same time. When private industry overpowers conservation measures, this results in over exploitation and greed. In Loo’s book, there is no mention of governments historically favoring guiding outfitters in terms of species conservation and quota allocations. However, concerns are rising today about the role guiding is having on species conservation and the role of public values.
A prime example of this would be the controversial Grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia. As a species Grizzly bears are vulnerable to over-exploitation because of their limited reproductive capacity. Female Grizzlies become sexually mature at 5 to 6 years of age and produce an average of 1 to 4 offspring which stay with the mother until 2 years old (Blood 4). However, females may not breed again for up to three or more years (Blood 4). Because of this, recruitment to the population is low, and over hunting results in population declines that take a long time to recover. In addition, climate change, habitat loss and poaching add to the species overall vulnerability.
Public opinion and values deem the Grizzly hunt unjustifiable and outdated, as the trophy hunt is no longer an acceptable sport in public opinion polls (Pacific Wild). 79% of British Columbians believe the hunt to be unethical and 73% want to see a total ban on Grizzly Bear hunting in the province (Pacific Wild). However, lobby pressure from the guide outfitting industry have allowed the hunt to continue annually. To guide outfitters, a grizzly bear hunt can sell for $16,500 or more (BC Guide Outfitters). An economic report published by the Raincoast Conservation Society and the Center for Integral Economics in 2003 revealed that trophy hunting amounted to $3.3 million in revenue for the province annually. However, the same study showed that ecotourism revenue from viewing Grizzly Bears brought in approximately $6.1 million annually, almost twice as much revenue as trophy hunting.
Because of the indirect effects of commercialization of wildlife through guide outfitting, Canada’s fundamental wildlife management directive is being undermined and conservation initiatives impeded in favour of market values and continued exploitation. Public opinion and societal values are seemingly ignored by government in favour of industry lobby groups.
BC Guide Outfitters. “Grizzly Bear Hunting in BC Canada.” BC Guide Outfitters, 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.
Canada. Blood, Donald. Grizzly in British Columbia: Ecology, Conservation and Management. B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, 2000. 6. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.
Loo, Tina. States of Nature. Vancouver: UBC, 2006. 280. Print.
Pacific Wild. "End The Trophy Hunt Say Seven In Ten B.C. Residents." Pacific Wild, 2008. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.
Parker, Z. and Gorter, R. “Crossroads: Economics, Policy, and the Future of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia.” Centre for Integral Economics & Raincoast Conservation Society, 2003. 29. Web. 14 Mar. 2015