En route to Montreal for the GRIDA Animal Law Conference (see post here), I picked up some Canadian newspapers. From the NationalPost, I learn that aboriginals on Vancouver Island hope to kill 1% of the region’s sea otters per year for “ceremonial reasons.”
Sea otters, like so many other fur-bearing animals, were hunted to near extinction in Canada during the heyday of the European fur trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They were reintroduced into British Columbia from Alaska in the early 1970s and have made progress, repopulating approximately 30% of their original range. In 2007, the Canadian government downlisted otters from “threatened” to “special concern.” Now, the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe and federal fisheries officials have crafted a sea otter “management plan” that will permit tribe members to shoot them. Related story here.
This has strong parallels to the wolf scenario in the United States (some irony: the wolf-bloodthirsty governor of Idaho is named Otter…). I appreciate the need for sensitivity to native people and traditions — an issue that does not pertain to the U.S. wolf situation. And the discussion over when and how concern for animals should defer to native traditions must be ongoing and vigorous (it will likely surprise no one that I believe human rituals, whatever their provenance, are less important than animal lives). But here the issue should not yet be ripe. The otter has not even fully recovered its numbers and remains at risk. Why the hurry to kill them?