Failing to secure your garbage bins in Port Moody could soon cost you $500.

Earlier this week, council voted unanimously to increase its fines, which are currently just $50, in an effort to change people’s behaviour around garbage. The aim is to protect bears and prevent them from being destroyed.

Carla Parr-Pearson with the group Port Moody Bear Aware made the proposal during Tuesday’s council meeting, where she pushed for a fine of $500 for first-time offenders.

“From my observation, a $50 fine most likely is not a deterrent because there’s a lag time between reporting, investigation and notification, leaving the opportunity for a bear to become habituated,” Parr-Pearson said.

The man who started the group’s page on Facebook, Dave Tate, also pushed the importance of protecting wildlife.

“People want to co-exist with the bears, and with nature,” Tate said.

The pitch was met with enthusiasm by Mayor Rob Vagramov.

“I don't think that anything short of co-existence, anything short of integrating them as neighbours into the community is acceptable in Port Moody,” Vagramov said at the meeting.

“We plow down their trees and we encroach on their habitat and then they become a ‘nuisance bear,' which I think is one of the most self-centred phrases I think I’ve ever heard.”

The change could mean the fine for violating the solid waste bylaw will go up to $500 for a first offence, $750 for the second offence, and $1,000 for any offences after that.

Council will vote on officially changing the bylaw in October.

Garbage is the primary attractant for black bears in British Columbia, accounting for 60 per cent of calls to conservation officers over the past four years.