Spreading awareness in Shiretoko of ban on approaching brown bears, max fine of 300,000 yen starting April

With the establishment of the Revised Natural Parks Act in April, purposefully hiding near and approaching brown bears is now banned at Shiretoko National Park. A maximum fine of 300,000 yen has been placed on approaching and feeding wild animals. Locally, the Act is expected to deter the acclimating of brown bears to people and prevent accidents involving people and brown bears. Related organizations are gearing up to spread awareness of the new rules.

The revised Act bans conduct such as feeding brown bears, hiding near them to capture photos or video or to observe them, and not leaving the area when a brown bear is sighted. Refusing to follow the warnings of the Ministry of the Environment park management staff will incur a maximum fine of 300,000 yen. Shiretoko Nature Foundation Conservation Management Department Director Ishinazaka Tsuyoshi expressed his anticipation. “The new law gave us rules needed to protect this Natural World Heritage site. I hope thorough enforcement becomes the norm.”

Utoro area cafe owner Ito Kaori has published a photograph and picture book with the theme of living harmoniously with brown bears. She commented, “It is heartbreaking that the behavior of human beings can lead to the capturing and killing of brown bears. I want the revision of the Act to spark reflection on what happens even after tourists have left Shiretoko.” However, her animal photographer husband Akihiro expressed concern, “The banned conduct is clearly stated in the Act, but the standard for just how much photographing and observation is allowed is unclear. I think it will take some time to arrive on a standard of legal application that both park users and managers can feel satisfied with.”

The Utoro Ranger Office branch of the Ministry of the Environment is creating posters and comics to spread awareness of the revised Act. The Office plans to disseminate information at sightseeing locations and airports, and on social media.

National Park Conservation Director Watanabe commented, “We must search for ways to let people safely observe brown bears, such as efforts like expanding the private car restrictions and shuttle bus service currently being advanced in pilot programs.”

Photographers holding cameras and approaching a brown bear sighted on the road along the Iwaobetsu River (October 2021)

Location

Shiretoko National Park

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