Thursday, March 7, 2013

Proposal To Ban Trade OF Polar Bears Rejected; U.S. & Russia Line Up Against Canada

Species At Risk

Polar Bears: In this 2006 image, an adult polar bear (Ursus maritimus) nibbles on a piece
of grass near Churchill, 
a town on the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, where polar bears
are common. 
Photo Credit: Harold Ables/Associated Press, 2006
Source: CBC

The status quo regarding Canadian polar bears (Ursus maritimus) will remain so; a proposal at the CITES Conference in Bankok to ban the trade of polar bears was widely rejected. An Associated Press article, reported by the CBC, says:
A proposal by the United States to ban cross-border trade in polar bears and their parts was defeated Thursday at an international meeting of conservationists, marking a victory for Canada's indigenous Inuit people over their big neighbour to the south. Delegates at the triennial meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, rejected Washington's proposal to change the status of the polar bear from a species whose trade is merely regulated, not banned.
The proposal fell far short of the two-thirds needed to pass, garnering 38 votes in favour, 42 against and 46 abstentions. A similar proposal was defeated three years ago at the last CITES meeting. While support for most of the meeting's 70 proposals covering the trade in other species fell along predictable lines, the U.S. proposal made for some odd bedfellows. Russia endorsed Washington's proposal, which was also supported by a cluster of animal humane societies. Canada was joined in opposition by some of the larger conservation organizations, including the CITES Secretariat and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, better known as TRAFFIC.
The worldwide population of polar bears is estimated to be 20,000-28,000, with about two-thirds in Canada.
The United States had contended that climate change was dangerously shrinking the bears' habitat, and that pre-emptive measures were needed to save them. The Inuit, on whose lands many of the animals dwell, contended that polar bear populations were not declining, and that Canada was regulating the hunting of the bears in sustainable numbers. The group said their way of life and livelihoods would be threatened by a ban.
That the U.S. proposal received support from Russia is noteworthy, but not really significant. Perhaps this might reflect the fact that the stakes were so low in comparison to more urgent political matters like North Korea, Iran and Syria, where disagreement is as predictable as it is political. Another interesting point is that this has been considered a victory for Canada's Inuit and their way of life. This is likely true, which shows that identity and cultural politics remains strong, overcoming science.

As for scientific evidence and facts, it is hard to determine how much importance or relevance these were given in the final voting. Here are some facts to consider: 1) Canada has about 15,000 polar bears, or about 60 percent of the world’s population; 2) each year about 500 polar bears are legally killed, not all of it for Inuit consumption, but also for sports hunters (also called trophy hunting) from other nations other than the U.S; 3) Canada is the only country in the world to allow the international commercial trade of the animals’ body parts, which include pelts, skulls, claws and teeth. A pelt can fetch $10,000.

Such are some facts, but we need to know more science, chiefly if polar bear populations are sustainable under current conditions. Without the politics. One would think that this would be the chief factor in deciding whether polar bears ought to be affored greater protection, n'est-ce pas?

You can read the rest of the article at [CBC News]