B.C.’s controversial grizzly bear hunt opens this week.

The hunt runs until the end of May and this year 1,800 hunting tags are being issued, up 100 from last year.

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, Steve Thomson says the hunt contributes over $350 million to the province.

“It is part of the hunting tradition in British Columbia. We believe that provided that it is managed on the basis of sound science and that we are not putting populations at risk that the hunt can be maintained.”

A report for the Centre for Responsible Travel says bear viewing tours contribute more to the economy than the hunt does but Thomson says both can operate and co-exist.

“We recognize the important contribution that grizzly bear viewing and the eco-tourism component provides the province… but creating an artificial divide between the two is not in the best economic interests of the province.”

According to the province there are approximately 15,000 grizzlies in B.C. with local estimates putting over 300 in the Grizzly Bear Population Units Babine area, 350 in the Cranberry area and 450 in the Bulkley Lakes area.