THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF TROPHY HUNTING

Polar bear trophy hunting is the most expensive type of hunting in the northern hemisphere and only occurs in Canada. This exclusive activity attracts wealthy international hunters who want to add rare species to their showrooms. Not only is the economic value of guided trophy hunting expeditions interesting to consider, it is also important to know how much of that value benefits the local Inuit settlements.

Copyright: Polar Bears & Humans project / Ole J LioddenTotal and local economic value (in USD $1,000) of the polar bear trophy hunting industry in Nunavut (NUN) and the NWT, Canada, 1980-2016. See the Polar Bears & Humans book for source references and more details.

Total economic value is a term that refers to all active- and passive-use values of a specific resource. Trophy hunting is a direct consumptive use of polar bears, and the market price method – using the current price at which a commodity can be bought or sold – provides a good estimate of the total value of polar bear trophy hunting. The market price should also include the value of polar bear meat as food for dogs or humans.

The grey area in the figure above illustrates the total annual economic value of trophy hunting in Nunavut and the NWT from 1980–2016 (see the Polar Bears & Humans book for more details). Each year is adjusted for annual consumer price index (CPI) inflation. Therefore, USD $30,000 in 2000 was equivalent to USD $14,370 in 1980 and USD $41,820 in 2016. On average, US and Canadian currencies were approximately equal from 2007–2014.

The total economic value of trophy hunting in Nunavut and the NWT increased slowly in the 1980s, as the grey area in the figure above illustrates. The first year the industry exceeded an estimated value of USD $1,000,000 was 1987, and its value doubled in fewer than ten years. Later, a study in 2004 calculated that trophy hunters paid approximately USD $2,900,000 for trophy hunting in Nunavut, which is similar to the estimated value in figure above. The steep increase continued through the 1990s and peaked in 2007, with a total value of approximately USD $5,354,000 in Nunavut and the NWT, combined. Following its collapse in 2008, the polar bear trophy hunting industry stabilised around a total value of USD $1,647,000 in 2010–16, as the red dashed line in the figure above indicates.


Local benefits
A large portion of hunters’ payments ends up in the pockets of international outfitters, never reaching the local Inuit settlements. The local economic value is thus the amount of money from the trophy hunters’ payments that actually remains in local settlements.

The average local economic value of polar bear trophy hunting has been estimated to about 52% of the total trophy price. The dark grey curve in the figure above illustrates the estimated local economic value of polar bear trophy hunting in Nunavut and the NWT, where the highest estimated local value was approximately USD $2,856,000 in 2007. It dropped rapidly to about USD $665,000 four years later. From 2010–16 the local economic value stabilised around USD $876,000, as the blue dashed line in the figure above illustrates.

Polar bear hunting is perhaps the most known and conflict-ridden hunting activity in Arctic Canada, but it is not the most important. In fact, most Inuit villages that rely on subsistence hunting depend more on animals like ringed seals, caribou, arctic char and whales as reliable food sources.

A study analysing the local economic value of trophy hunting from 2000–09 revealed that only three out of 31 settlements in the NWT and Nunavut received 6% or more of their community income from trophy hunting. Ten settlements received 1–5% of their community income from polar bear trophy hunting, and the remaining 18 settlements received nothing or less than 1% of their community income from the polar bear troophy hunting industry. The study included mainly peak polar bear trophy hunting years, after which the industry collapsed in most settlements, before stabilising at a much lower level.


Learn more about polar bears
The information on this webpage is from Chapter 4.3 in the Polar Bears & Humans book. If you want to learn more about polar bears and conservation, order a copy of the book, and support the Polar Bears & Humans project.