Proposals to modernize Canada’s Migratory Birds Regulations: chapter 2


1. What Is Hunting?

1.1 Purpose of the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit

Background

No person may take a migratory bird except under the authority of a permit issued under the Regulations. A permit may be issued only for the purposes specified in the Regulations. Hunting permits, scientific permits and damage permits are examples of permits available.

The Regulations generally include a statement explaining the intended purpose for the permit - or at least a purpose that is implied, based on the clear limitations on how the birds taken under that permit may be used.

Historically, a survey sampling scheme - the National Harvest Survey - is the reason hunting permits were required beginning in 1966. The hunter registration allows a sample of hunters to be contacted to participate in an annual survey of their success during a hunting season. This information helps ensure that hunting remains a sustainable activity into the future. Prior to this time, hunting was handled as an exception to the general prohibition on killing migratory birds.

This permit is currently referred to as the Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit. The Canadian Wildlife Service is considering shortening the name to address an administrative issue whereby the Regulations do not clearly consider thick-billed murres as game birds, yet they are legally hunted in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the permit is required for this hunt. The new shorter name is the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit.

The problem

The current regulations do not include a clearly stated purpose for birds taken under the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit. While there are references scattered throughout the Regulations to the permitted uses of birds taken, it is confusing to try to find them all.

Without a statement of purpose in the Regulations, there are misconceptions about:

  1. what uses may be made of harvested birds;
  2. who is required to hold a hunting permit; and
  3. the permit’s importance to the functioning of the National Harvest Survey.

Options

Table 1.1: Options for adding a purpose in the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit
Options Pros Cons
1. Status Quo - no purpose stated None Misconceptions remain about the permissible uses of harvested birds, who is required to hold a hunting permit, and the permit's importance to the functioning of the National Harvest Survey
2. Add a statement of purpose: migratory birds to be taken through hunting primarily for human consumption, and to provide a sampling base for a survey of hunter’s take
Recommended
Clarifies the permissible uses of harvested birds, who is required to hold a hunting permit, and the permit's importance to the functioning of the National Harvest Survey None
 

Recommended solution -Option 2

Key Messages

The main difference between the status quo and the recommended option

Adding a statement of purpose makes it clear to hunters what the permit is to be used for and will help clarify who must hold this permit (see also Section 1.2).

Objectives addressed

  • Increased clarity

Highlights

The proposed option clarifies the purpose of the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit and the permit’s importance to the functioning of the National Harvest Survey.

1.2 Clarify who must hold a Migratory Bird Hunting Permit

Background

Under the current regulations, the courts draw different conclusions about “who is hunting” and, by extension, who requires a Migratory Bird Hunting Permit. This is partly because of the overly broad definition of hunting in the current regulations, where:

“hunt means chase, pursue, worry, follow after or on the trail of, lie in wait for, or attempt in any manner to capture, kill, injure or harass a migratory bird, whether or not the migratory bird is captured, killed or injured”

People are free to walk around in areas where migratory birds are found, but once there is any indication that they are actively involved in the activities listed above, then they are considered to be hunting and are liable to the requirement for a hunting permit. They may be charged if they do not have a permit, whether or not they are carrying a firearm.

The activities that require possession of a hunting permit vary among provinces; there is no existing standard approach in provincial hunting legislation.

The problem

The overly broad definition makes it unclear as to who is required to hold a hunting permit, and may be interpreted as requiring permits for people conducting activities not normally considered to be hunting. The options presented below in Table 1.2 aim to clarify the general case. There are also clear exceptions to the permit requirement, and these are described below.

Options

Table 1.2: Options to clarify who must hold a Migratory Bird Hunting Permit, recognizing that there are exceptions for specific purposes
Options Pros Cons
1. A permit must be held by any person who has the means to take a migratory bird and is attempting to do so
Recommended

Clearly focuses hunting on the activity that would be commonly understood by the public to be hunting

Courts no longer make their own definition

Enforcement officers must prove “attempting”
2. A permit must be held by any person involved in a hunting activity either personally or by helping another person Easy to enforce

Need policy document so that officials can answer questions from the public, but may not have force of law

Courts continue to make their own definition

Harvest survey database contains a lot of records of permit holders who are not actually hunting

Recommended solution - Option 1

Key Messages

The main difference between the status quo and the recommended option

All of the activities that are currently prohibited would continue to be prohibited. However, under the recommended option, only the person taking the birds would require a hunting permit and continue to be subject to the daily bag limit, whereas under the status quo others assisting the hunter also require permits even if they are not hunting (for example, a hunting guide, a friend helping to retrieve downed birds, and so on).

Hunter registration is important to ensure hunting is a sustainable activity into the future

Under the recommended approach, we could be sure that only hunters would be contacted to voluntarily participate in the National Harvest Survey. This would increase cost-efficiency by being able to exclude helpers, observers and guides.

Exceptions to the permit requirement

Current exceptions to the requirement for a permit would remain clearly specified in the Regulations. For example, youths participating in Waterfowler Heritage Days would continue to be exempt from the permit requirement.

In addition, the Canadian Wildlife Service is considering changing the language to make it easier to add new exceptions in future, when permit requirements are relevant to hunter apprenticeship programs.

A family hunting permit

The Canadian Wildlife Service is also considering allowing a “family hunting permit” that would allow hunting by immediate family members (permit holder, his/her spouse and children under the age of majority) under one permit, with one shared daily bag limit.

Objectives addressed

  • Hunter preferences are addressed
  • Increased clarity

Highlights

The proposed solution clearly focuses on the activity that would be commonly understood by the public to be hunting. In other words, anyone who has the means to take the migratory bird, and is trying to take it, is hunting.

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