Standing up for fairer treatment of resident hunters

On December 1st, Yukon NDP Environment Critic Kate White asked the following question in the Yukon legislature about the need to better balance the Yukon government's treatment of resident hunters and non-resident trophy hunters.

Kate White (Takhini--Kopper King): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. According to the government’s big game harvest statistics, non-resident hunters have more rights to harvest Yukon sheep and goats than resident hunters. Of the 15 goats harvested, 12 went to non-residents and, of the 236 sheep harvested, 140 went to non-residents.

Mr. Speaker, how did the government determine that the majority of these highly prized animals should go to non-resident hunters, which stakeholders were consulted, which policies were followed, and are the policies publicly available?

Minister of the Environment Wade Istchenko: All resident and non-resident hunters are bound by the same rules respecting the use of the meat from big game species. Our Yukon Wildlife Act prohibits wasting fur from wolves, coyotes, wolverines and bears and wasting meat from all other big game species. The Yukon big game outfitters and guides are responsible for ensuring that their clients’ hunting activities comply with the Yukon hunting laws.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite’s question is a good question. We’ve seen in the media lately rate change proposals moving forward. We work with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the affected First Nations and affected renewable resources councils when it comes to any animals that we have issues we need to work on.

White: The seal fees for the very highly prized goat and sheep are $10 apiece. Mr. Speaker, seal fees in the Yukon are some of the lowest across Canada and there is general concern that these low fees may undervalue Yukon wildlife.

In the latest round of Wildlife Act regulations changes, there is a proposal for moose and caribou seal fees to increase from $5 to $10 apiece. This increase is proposed for licensed hunters. In other words, it treats non-resident trophy hunters the same as local folks hunting for food. There is no proposal to increase the seal fees for sheep or goats.

Will the government consider increasing the seal fees for non-resident trophy hunters of Yukon sheep and goats to better reflect the value of these animals and to dedicate more funds to conserving sheep, goats and their habitats?

Istchenko: We do respect the process. The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board regularly invites governments, First Nations, wildlife associations and the public to submit proposals to amend regulations under the Wildlife Act and federal Yukon Territory fisheries regulations.

Proposals can be made by any person or any group. This year’s proposals — the Department of Environment; there’s one from a renewable resource council; a local First Nation has a proposal; the Whitehorse Archery Club has one; the Yukon Fish and Game Association has one. This will all be done through the great work of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, through public consultation, and we look forward to seeing the outcome.

White: The minister still hasn’t explained why non-resident hunters are treated so much differently from resident hunters. Effective management of Yukon’s sheep, goats and their habitats depends on accurate data. There was a sheep summit in Vancouver in April 2014, and a Yukoner in attendance reported that — and I quote: “When outfitters release numbers of wild sheep to the government, they become public information. For hunting purposes, it is best to keep the numbers to yourself.” Yet, at a recent meeting hosted by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, attendees learned that information about outfitters’ hunts is proprietary. That means it’s protected by ATIPP.

Mr. Speaker, will the government ensure that it gets full and accurate data about sheep populations necessary to develop an effective management strategy, or does the government believe that outfitters need to keep this data secret?

Istchenko: The annual regulation review process is led by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and is an effective way to engage with our First Nations, our renewable resource councils, fish and wildlife harvest associations and the public. Anyone can make a regulation change proposal. If the member opposite would like to make a regulation change proposal, she can also do so.

Our regulation change proposals are reviewed by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board in a manner that considers the scientific and traditional knowledge, working with the local First Nation and working with the experts within the Department of Environment, and we look forward to seeing these regulations change proposals and seeing what the board comes up with.


Photo: aaranged / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.