Objectives and Guidelines for the Establishment of National Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting


1. Description of Regulations

The Migratory Birds Regulations are part of the regulations respecting the protection of migratory birds in general, as mandated by the Migratory Birds Convention (MBC). According to the MBC Act, 1994, the Governor in Council may make regulations providing for:

  • The periods during which, or the geographic areas in which, migratory birds may be killed.
  • The species and number of migratory game birds that a person may kill in any period when doing so is permitted by the regulation.
  • The manner in which migratory game birds may be killed and the equipment that may be used.
  • The periods in each year during which a person may have in possession migratory game birds killed during the season when the taking of such birds was legal, and the number of birds that may be possessed.

This document deals with these four aspects of regulation, although the Migratory Birds Regulations deal with other areas as well.

2. Guiding Principles

Guiding principles for migratory bird hunting regulations include those laid out in the Guidelines for Wildlife Policy in Canada as approved by the Wildlife Ministers at the Wildlife Ministers Conference, 30 September 1982. In particular, the most relevant principles are:

  • The maintenance of viable natural wildlife stocks always takes precedence over their use.
  • Canadians are temporary custodians, not the owners, of their wildlife heritage.
  • Canadians are free to enjoy and use wildlife in Canada, subject to laws aimed at securing its sustainable enjoyment and use.
  • The cost of management essential to preserving viable populations of wildlife should be borne by all Canadians; special management measures required to permit intensive uses should be supported by the users.
  • Wildlife has intrinsic, social and economic values, but wildlife sometimes causes problems that require management.
  • Conservation of wildlife relies upon a well-informed public.

3. Objectives for the Establishment of National Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting

  • To provide an opportunity for Canadians to hunt migratory game birds, by establishing hunting seasons.
  • To manage the take of migratory game birds at levels compatible with the species' ability to sustain healthy populations consistent with the available habitat throughout their range.
  • To conserve the genetic diversity within migratory game bird populations.
  • To provide hunting opportunity in various parts of Canada within the limits imposed by the abundance, migration, and distribution patterns of migratory bird populations, and with due respect for the traditional use of the migratory game bird resource in Canada.
  • To limit the accidental killing of a migratory game bird species requiring protection because of poor population status, where there is a reasonable possibility that a hunter might confuse that species with another for which there is an open season.
  • To assist, at times and in specific locations, in the prevention of damage to natural habitat or depredation of agricultural crops by migratory game birds.

4. Guidelines for the Establishment of National Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting

  • Regulations shall be established according to the requirements of the Migratory Birds Convention and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
  • Regulations shall address the Principles of Section B and the Objectives of Section C.
  • Unless needs dictate otherwise, hunting regulations will be changed biennially as little as possible.
  • Regulations should be simple and readily enforceable.
  • Where a conflict arises between allocation of harvest among jurisdictions and the conservation of migratory game bird populations, the conservation objective shall take precedence.
  • When uncertainty exists about the status of a migratory game bird population, a precautionary approach will be taken in establishing sustainable hunting regulations.
  • Hunting regulations may not discriminate among Canadian hunters based on their province or territory of residence. This guideline does not preclude recognition of aboriginal rights.
  • Where possible, regional, national and international harvest strategies will be developed among management agencies that share populations. Regulations will be designed to meet mutual targets for harvest, harvest rate or population size.
  • Specific regulation changes will be developed through a process of co-management and public consultation with other interested groups and individuals.
  • Hunting regulations should be consistent with terms of agreements in aboriginal land claim settlements.

5. Regulatory Process

Regulations may be established in one of two ways; selection of a regulatory package from a pre-established set of possible packages, or through a biannual regulatory consultation process.

Pre-established sets of regulatory alternatives:

Regulatory alternatives may be pre-established according to the guidelines outlined in section D, with the selection made in any year based on a predetermined set of conditions. For example, a set of three regulatory packages with decreasing harvest rates could be described; liberal, moderate and restrictive. The criteria for selection among the alternatives could be based on the results of population surveys. This method would reduce the time required to conduct the usual process, simplify the implementation of multi-jurisdictional harvest strategies, and increase the predictability of regulations.

Regulatory process:

The Minister of the Environment must be in a position to proceed with any changes to the Migratory Birds Regulations for the upcoming hunting season by the second Monday in June. To ensure that the regulations are made with the best possible advice, a broad process of consultation must be carried out. Reports produced as part of this process may be obtained from Regional Directors, Environmental Conservation, or the Director, Wildlife Conservation Branch, Canadian Wildlife Service.

  • The Canadian Wildlife Service, national office, issues a status report on migratory game bird populations at the beginning of November. This report describes the biological information available to determine the status of each population.
  • Regional officials (biologists and management) of the Canadian Wildlife Service and provincial and territorial wildlife officials will consult with non-government organizations and interested individuals on issues related to hunting regulations for the coming season. To ensure that all parties have access to the best possible biological information, the November status report may be used as an aid.
  • The initial suggestions for regulation changes will be developed through regional consultation processes. These processes may vary among regions, but should include active participation by provincial and territorial wildlife agencies, wildlife co-management boards and affected stakeholders. The changes, with rationale and predicted effect (Section F) are described in a regulation report issued at the end of December from the national office. This report allows inter-regional and international consideration of proposed changes.
  • Public and organizational comments on the proposals outlined in the December report should be sent to the appropriate Regional Director, or the Director General, Canadian Wildlife Service.
  • Final regulation proposals, incorporating input from the consultations, are submitted from the Regional Directors of Environmental Conservation to the Director General, Canadian Wildlife Service, by the end of March.
  • The regulation proposals are moved, by the national office, through the process for consideration by the government beginning in June.
  • Population surveys are carried out throughout the year. From time to time these surveys may show an unexpected change in migratory game bird populations that require a sudden revision to the national regulation proposals.
  • The final regulations, as approved by the Governor-in-Council and the Special Committee of Council, are described in a report which is distributed to all involved parties. Each purchaser of a migratory game bird hunting permit receives a summary of the regulations for that province.

6. Items to Be Addressed in Regulatory Proposals

Proposals to change migratory game bird hunting regulations should address the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the regulatory change?
  • How does the change address the Objectives and Guidelines set out in this document?
  • What is the predicted effect of the proposal? An analysis based on existing data sources should be included.
  • How will the actual effect of the regulatory change be measured?

The proposals should be as concise as possible, while still including the required elements. A simplified rationale would apply for regulations that carry out previously negotiated harvest strategies and agreements.

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