Policy on Fossil Collecting and Regulation

Measuring a fossil trackway for a photo.

The British Columbia Paleontological Alliance (BCPA) is a union of professional and amateur paleontologists working to advance the science of paleontology in the province by fostering public awareness, scientific collecting and education, and by promoting communication between all those interested in fossils. It is the position of the BCPA and its component regional societies that fossils comprise a critical record of past life forms and, therefore, fossils have important scientific, heritage and educational values. Any collecting of fossils must be made with due consideration of these factors.

General Scientific Collecting

Fossil collecting activities, by both professionals and amateurs, should be undertaken in a responsible manner, that is, suitable for subsequent scientific study and where collected materials receive proper curation, as described in the following BCPA Standards and Ethics for Scientific Collecting. Fossil collecting undertaken according to these standards provides a valuable record of British Columbia's paleontological resources and should be encouraged.

Standards and Ethics for Scientific Collecting

Paleontological Reserves

A few fossil localities in British Columbia are of outstanding scientific importance (e.g., Burgess Shale and Wapiti Lake, both presently protected) and merit specific protection and regulation as Paleontological Reserves. Measures of the importance of a Paleontological Reserve include, but are not limited to: uniqueness of the fossils found there (either individual specimens or associations of fossil types); unusual preservation of fossils; large, moderately-complete vertebrate remains; etc. The BCPA will work with the Provincial Government to establish Paleontological Reserves, and to develop management plans for them, in consultation with professional paleontologists having expertise relevant to the proposed sites.

General scientific collecting is not permitted in Paleontological Reserves. Locality protection should be flexible, to allow for periodic revision of the status, and should be designed so as not to hinder valid scientific research at the locality.

The BCPA will seek to work directly with provincial ministries and legislators to help develop a process whereby Paleontological Reserves can be designated promptly and with the input of the BCPA.

Paleontological Research Sites

The BCPA recognizes that valid scientific research may require that some fossil sites remain undisturbed for the duration of the study. Such sites are to be designated Paleontological Research Sites (PRS) by the BCPA. Researchers may apply to the BCPA for PRS status. Research sites are established typically for periods of six months to two or more years, depending on the nature of the research. Collecting at the site by BCPA members is prohibited for the duration of the Paleontological Research Site designation. At the conclusion of the assigned study period, the site will revert to normal status unless the researcher demonstrates to the satisfaction of the BCPA that further protection is justified.

The BCPA will seek to work directly with provincial ministries and legislators to help develop a process whereby Paleontological Research Sites can be designated promptly and with the input of the BCPA.

Out-of Province Paleontologists

Out-of province paleontologists should not be restricted or hindered from fossil collecting, provided they follow adequate collecting and curatorial procedures, as outlined in the above Standards and Ethics for Scientific Collecting. Out-of province paleontologists should inform the BCPA of their research program prior to initiation of their collecting program. Type specimens and general collections of fossils must be housed in appropriate institutions designated for such storage. In particular instances, the BCPA may request out-of province paleontologists to deposit a representative suite of specimens in a British Columbia museum or recognized institutional collection in the province.

Commercial Collecting

The BCPA is opposed to commercial extraction of fossils by its member societies or their members. Any commercial fossil extraction activity should be regulated by the province and require permits and/or licenses, with some sort of associated fee. The BCPA anticipates that its advice will be sought and followed by regulators in assessing such permit applications for suitability.

The BCPA will seek to work directly with provincial ministries and legislators to help develop a method whereby guidelines for Commercial Fossil Collecting Standards and a Commercial Permit Application Process are established.