DOHA—A coalition of wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations today expressed its deep disappointment about the decision by the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) not to give greater protection to the polar bear.
A United States proposal would have banned the international commercial trade in polar bear parts and products. If adopted at CITES it would have kept at least 3,000 polar bears out of commercial trade over the next decade at a time when the species is increasingly threatened by loss of habitat due to global climate change.
“We are deeply disappointed that the CITES Parties did not supported this vital proposal” said Dr. Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife for Humane Society International and executive director of the Species Survival Network. “A ban on the commercial trade in polar bear parts and products, such as bear skin rugs, would have helped to reduce pressures on populations already threatened by habitat loss through climate change. Today’s decision may put the last nail in the coffin for the polar bear.”
- Climate change is destroying the polar bear’s sea ice habitat at such a rate that its population is predicted to decline by two-thirds by 2050. Polar bears simply cannot survive without sea ice, from which they hunt seals, their main prey.
- In 2009, 8 out of 19 polar bear populations were determined to be declining, only one was categorized as increasing; 3 were viewed as stable and the status of the remaining 7 was unknown or data deficient.
On top of the major threat of climate change, polar bears are killed to supply the international commercial trade in their parts and products such as polar bear skin rugs. In Canada alone 689 polar bears are legally killed each year. The parts and products of an average of 300 of these polar bears are exported annually.
- Greenland also exported polar bear parts and products for commercial purposes until 2008 when a temporary moratorium on exports was established. Despite the moratorium, Greenland continues to permit hunting of 130 polar bears per year, which may enter international trade in the future. The other range states, the United States, Norway and the Russian Federation, prohibit the international commercial trade in polar bear parts and products.
- The EU is the largest importer of polar bear parts, importing 65% of those traded for commercial purposes over the last ten years; this includes 775 skins and 1279 skin pieces. The EU has recognised the impact of commercial trade by banning imports of polar bear specimens from two populations in Canada because the authorities could not demonstrate that take levels were sustainable. It so far has failed to stop imports from 5 other declining Canadian populations.