The US, strongly supported by Russia, argued that while climate change and the increasing loss of the Arctic sea ice on which polar bears hunt was the greatest threat to the 20,000 remaining in the wild, hunting will also accelerate their extinction.
At the meeting, 38 countries voted in favour of protecting polar bears, 42 against and 46 abstaining. Some countries did not attend to vote.
About 600 polar bears bears are killed each year in Canada, some in traditional hunts by Inuit people and some as trophies for foreign hunters. Half the bears are then exported as skins or other body parts.
Only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remain in the wild, living in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States. Leading polar bear scientists believe that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear populations will be lost by the year 2050.
“The polar bear is facing a grim future, and today brought more bad news. The continued harvest of polar bears to supply the commercial international trade is not sustainable. Members of CITES have an obligation to protect species from this threat,” said Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and head of the U.S. delegation to CoP16. “Today, we failed to do that for the polar bear.”
For more information:
International Fund for Animal Welfare
National Resources Defense Council
(PS. – Just so you know, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) DOES NOT SUPPORT a ban on the international trade of polar bear parts!)