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Dnevnik Daily, Financial Interests Motivate Bear Culling

October 28th, 2010

Licenses to shoot brown bears will from now on be issued by the Agriculture Minister instead of the Environment Minister, as has so far been the case, according to an amendment to the Hunting Act that Parliament ultimately voted into law earlier today. The sponsors of the bill are GERB MP Emil Dimitrov and three fellow parliamentarians of the ruling GERB party. Initially the bill contained a clause that, if enacted, would empower the Agriculture Minister to issue permits for chamois hunting as well, but at one point Dimitrov himself withdrew that latter text.

The bill was tabled in Parliament in late summer, following two recorded incidents involving bear attacks on humans in the Smolyan region. The sponsors supported their proposal with the argument that the procedure to allow the selective shooting of a man-eating bear was too clumsy and time consuming, and that the Environment Minister’s permit usually came too late, creating a risk of further incidents.

Back then, Deputy Environment Minister Evdokiya Maneva commented that it would be inappropriate for the Agriculture Minister to license bear culling as he was not the official in charge of conserving protected species, and also because his Ministry had a direct financial interest in proceeds from hunts organized by hunting estates. Nonetheless, the Environment Ministry issued a formal position paper supporting the bill.

Yesterday MP Dimitrov put forward yet another argument in favor of the proposed amendments: the financial interest of hunting estates in organizing bear hunts. Trophy hunting yields a profit of between 30 and 50 thousand Euros per bear, he said. At present, some 50 bears are killed by poachers every year, according to Dimitrov, which constitutes missed revenue for the state coffers. Before being elected to Parliament on the GERB ticket, Dimitrov had served on the managing boards of two hunting estates. He now explained the withdrawal of his own text regarding chamois hunting with the fact that profits from wild goats are much smaller: €1,200 to €1,300 per killed specimen.

The annual quota for bear hunting will be determined, like heretofore, by a national committee comprising representatives of both the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture. It can be no more than 8% and no less that 3% of the total bear population.

‘The big problem here is that to date, no one really knows how many bears there are in Bulgaria, so those percentages have no basis in reality,’ was the comment for Dnevnik Daily of Iskra Mihailova, MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment. It was not until a month ago that an official monitoring of the bear population was launched; this is likely to take a few years, so the quota for 2011 will be determined on a purely arbitrary basis. Within the next two weeks, the environmental NGOs will submit a formal complaint to the European Commission, said yesterday Andrey Kovachev of the Balkans Association. ‘It’s not the formal transfer of the licensing powers from the Ministry of the Environment to the Ministry of Agriculture that worries us. We have two clear motives for our complaint. Firstly, the Environment Minister is the authority responsible for the conservation of species protected under the Habitats Directive in this country. And secondly, the parliamentary debate on the proposed bill clearly focused on the financial benefits of trophy hunting. We have reasons to believe that permits will be issued for trophy hunting rather than the selective culling of man-eating bears, and that the animals will be falsely accused of all sorts of incidents,’ Andrei Kovachev commented.


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