Trophy hunting: Science on its own can’t dictate policy

A ban on the controversial trophy hunting of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos; pictured) in British Columbia, Canada, comes into force on 30 November. The province’s new government considers the practice to be no longer sustainable — socially, economically or culturally. We are pleased to see an end to the co-opting of science to justify questionable policies.

Poll data have long shown strong opposition (more than 80%) to the trophy hunt, even in rural areas and among hunters. However, some scientists view the decision to ban the hunt as emotional or political, rather than science-based. Claims of numerical sustainability notwithstanding (see B. N. McLellan et al. J. Wildl. Manag. 81, 218–229; 2017), this criticism implies that science can justify the exploitation of wildlife. We strongly disagree (see also K. A. Artelle et al. PLoS ONE 8,e78041; 2013).

Science can predict outcomes of policy options, but how society ought to act is ultimately decided by values. The hunting ban aligns with most of society’s moral compass: trophy hunting of inedible animals is no longer acceptable.

The ban stands to boost bear-based ecotourism, which brings in substantially more revenue than the trophy hunt (M. Honey et al. J. Ecotour. 15, 199–240; 2016). It also conforms to long-standing Indigenous law against trophy hunting, recently formalized by a coalition of sovereign First Nations (see go.nature.com/2id1d0l).

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07553-6

First published in Nature,November 2017.

About the authors

Chris T. Darimont, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada. twitter: @ChrisDarimont

Kyle A. Artelle, Simon Fraser University and Raincoast Conservation Foundation twitter: @KyleArtelle

Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation twitter: @faisal_moola

Paul C. Paquet, University of Victoria and Raincoast Conservation Foundation

We are so excited to share our annual report – Tracking Raincoast Into 2023 – with you! Tracking gives you highlights from the year, our science, flagship projects, as well as a peek at what’s in store for the coming year.

Dive into Tracking and learn more about our work safeguarding coastal carnivores in the Southern Great Bear Rainforest tenure. We are currently raising funds to stop commercial trophy hunting in more than a quarter of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. Now is a good time to sign up and stay connected to our community of researchers and change-makers.