By Heather Ramsay-The bear hunt has started. From April 1 to June 30, black bears are open season on the islands. Although non-residents may still be hindered from hunting due to a complicated licensing issue, residents of BC are under no such limits.
Even though ending the bear hunt was included in the post-Island Spirit Rising Letter of Understanding between the province and the Council of the Haida Nation, the actual meaning of the this section of the document is still up for debate.
“There is no agreement, which means the bear hunt goes forward,” said Jose Villa-Arce, spokesperson for the province.
According to the April 22, 2005 document: “The parties will review options with respect to ending commercial and recreational bear hunting on Haida Gwaii.” But with two parties, there are two interpretations.
Mr. Villa-Arce says the government’s position is the two parties are willing to talk about the options for ending the bear hunt, to see what can be done.
“We are not agreeing to end the bear hunt, but looking at what are the approaches to doing that,” he said.
On the other hand, Mr. Villa-Arce said the Haida position is that the parties have agreed to end the hunt and will discuss how to do that.
Discussions took place in January and February, but the two parties have not formally returned to the topic.
“We’re focusing on the proposed protected areas and the protocol on consultation,” Mr. Villa-Arce said.
The commercial operator has done nothing wrong or improper within the confines of the licence, and therefore is entitled to continue, he added.
Mr. Villa-Arce said there is also no evidence the population is in jeopardy.
But locally, the Friends of Taan are concerned that more than 1,000 black bears have been killed on Haida Gwaii since 1977. This group of citizens have put up anti-bear hunting signs and have a new website at bearshaidagwaii.net.
They want the province to respect a decade-old CHN resolution calling for an end to the recreational hunt.
The website lists Port Clements resident Brock Storry as the owner of the bear hunting licence and includes a direct link to email him, the guide outfitter Prophet Muskwa, head negotiator Geoff Plant and the premier with any concerns.
But a phone call to Mr. Storry revealed that he does not own the licence, even though it is in his name.
Mr. Storry said he agreed to hold the licence for Kevin Olmstead, the owner of Prophet Muskwa, based at the Tlell River House, when he first worked for the outfitter. He said the Olmsteads already held a licence in another region of BC, and outfitters are not allowed to hold more than one bear licence in the province.
When he quit his job there, he signed the rights and management of the licence to Mr. Olmstead. He would like to see the licence transferred to someone else’s name and doesn’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet.
“I came to my senses and decided not to be a part of that,” said Mr. Storry.
Mr. Storry said he called the Ministry of the Environment to ensure he is no longer legally responsible for the licence and they confirmed “everything is on the up and up.” Still he has heard the negotiations between the province and the Haida are holding up the transfer of the licence to another name.
Neither CHN president Guujaaw nor Kevin Olmstead were available for comment by deadline.
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