Over the past century several important developments greatly influenced the fur industry here in British Columbia.
The first significant development began to emerge as a consequence of the increased settlement within the New Caledonia region. At that time many settlers relied on opportunistic trapping as a means of supplementing their often meagre supply of food and funds. This uncoordinated fur-harvesting pressure soon depleted many furbearer populations and increased hostilities within the established trapper community.
In order to address these and other allied concerns the provincial government initiated the registered trapline system in 1926 covering all of the crown land within the province. Each designated trapline varied in size but most covered an area from 100 to 300 square miles. The intent of having this size was based on the need to provide adequate furbearer populations which could supply the needs of a family unit, if managed in a conscientious manner. Approximately 4,000 such traplines were designated, half of these lines were allocated as First Nations lines and the remainder were made available on a lottery basis to other interested individuals.
This system eliminated competitions amongst trappers and gave the individual trapper an incentive to manage his/her line in a manner to ensure a continuing harvest from year to year. Besides ensuring that no species would be endangered as a result of trapping activity, registration paved the way for later regulations affecting trapping methods.
These include: compulsory inspection of holding traps within stated seasons; regulations specifying how certain animals must be trapped; banning of specific trapping devices; and withholding of trapping licensees from inexperienced or untrained persons.
The need to develop a strategy for educating new trappers resulted in the formation of the B.C. Trappers Association in 1944. For many years this provincially registered, non-profit organization served this function well and in 1983 the trapper education course become compulsory for all aspiring new trappers.
The most recent development in the fur industry of major consequence began to emerge about two decades ago with concerns about animal rights on the international stage.
Even though Canada accounts for about three percent of the overall 15 million dollars of international trade generated by and through the fur industry, Canadian trappers were affected by these concerns. In 1997 Canada, along with Russia and the European Union, became a signatory to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). This agreement set in motion a system of scientifically evaluating trapping methods against animal welfare thresholds. The ultimate goal of AIHTS is to ensure that any trap used has been tested against the welfare threshold requirements as set out by the international treaty. The agreement further requires that certified traps be used by trained, licensed trappers for use in capturing animals for fur, conservation, research or health and safety reasons. The AIHTS began a phased-in implementation in the fall of 2007 and since that time trapping regulations in all Canadian jurisdictions have changed to provide the requirements of the agreement.
Interested members of the public are invited to participate in the BCTA Convention proceedings on April 13-15. Further information will be forthcoming as we approach the convention date.