Bear ban bad for business

Fussy Europeans could be tougher sell



A possible decision by the United States to ban polar bear trophies could be a serious blow to Nunavut outfitters for the upcoming hunting season, suggests the territory’s tourism bureau.

Some outfitters have suggested that American hunters could simply be substituted for Europeans with itchy trigger fingers, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines there isn’t adequate scientific information to justify the Government of Nunavut’s dramatic increase in hunting tags from 403 to 518 hunting tags, announced in January this year.

Sekayi Pswarayi, who works on marketing for Nunavut Tourism, said it’s true that countries like Austria and Spain have sizeable numbers of interested hunters, but warns that breaking into these new markets could take longer than many think and could carry more risks.

“If the U.S. pulled out, we’d be in a difficult situation for the upcoming season, that’s for sure,” she said.

Martha Kalluk runs Nanuk Outfitting with her husband in Resolute, where business has been brisk this year.

They’ve received 20 polar bear sport hunters so far this year, all from the United States. Each hunter paid $20,000 US to the outfitters, who employ five guides and five assistants.

More money spills into the local economy from accommodations, food and supplies, and anything else bought in the community, like carvings. She’s concerned by the threat of an American ban on polar bear trophies.

“That’s the only income we have right now,” she said. “We’d lose a lot.”

Last year 108 trophies were imported from Canada to the United States, which means outfitters received about $2.16 million US.

Each year, Nunavut Tourism attends several hunting trade shows held inside the United States each year, including the All Canada shows and the Safari Club Show in Reno, Nevada, which draws “the who’s who of hunting” from around the globe, Pswarayi said.

But there hasn’t yet been a concentrated effort to hook up with European booking agents, which takes time and persistence.

“You can’t be sitting on your duff. You need to be marketing it,” Pswarayi said.

And advertising materials won’t easily transfer to Europe, where the environmental lobby and animal-rights concerns often hold greater sway, she said.

“It’s a little more touchy, because the mainstream says, ‘That’s bad.'”

Questions about the rationale behind the increase in Nunavut’s polar bear tags come just as Canada-U.S. relations are rebounding to pre-Sept. 11 levels. “It’s been a long haul,” Pswarayi said.

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