The heat-stressed polar bears in Hudson Bay, Canada dig holes in the dirt, trying to stay cool by lying on the permafrost below. Photo: Larry Schweiger / National Wildlife Federation

By Laura Beans
6 December 2013

(EcoNews) – New data pointing to a dramatic rise in polar bear hunting surfaced this week as the biennial meeting of the international Polar Bear Agreement kicked off in Moscow, Russia. Clearly, climate change isn’t the only challenge facing Polar Bears. Hunting of Canadian polar bears is rising at alarming rates—in excess of 10 percent over previous years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity

“Global sentiment on this issue seems clear, as most every country has banned the trade and commercial export of polar bear parts,” said Elly Pepper, policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Yet Canada continues to allow substantial harvest and trade. Their populations are perhaps key to the species climate change survival, making the country’s outlier stance all the more vexing.” 

A forum declaration was signed yesterday by the five countries in the polar bear’s range (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the U.S.) ensuring conservation efforts, but scientific experts at the forum warned of the immediate impacts of sea-ice loss on the species’ survival, including loss of food sources. The parties agreed on the importance of addressing climate change and reducing additional stressors, like over-harvest, poaching and illegal trade as well as improving reporting and monitoring of legal trade. However, specific measures to implement the declaration remain unclear, reports the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Polar bears already face an enormous threat from climate change, and we absolutely must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to save the species,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Adding overhunting to an already deadly situation is speeding up the polar bear’s extinction.” 

Despite the climate change challenges the species face, Canada has tripled its hunting quota and is proposing more quota increases. According to NRDC, 740 polar bears were shot by hunters in Canada in 2012—almost 80 more than the average over the previous five years. Scientists continue to predict that two-thirds of polar bears will be lost by 2050.

“Polar bears need protection from skin sellers and marketers,” said Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife at Humane Society International. “We cannot stand by while polar bears are sold off to the highest bidder.”

Prices for polar bear hides have skyrocketed. They have quadrupled since 2007 to $22,000 USD for a single hide—doubling in the last year alone, according to the NRDC. Demand for polar bear skins is also growing—particularly in China where skins sell for up to $80,000 USD each.

“Canada’s own scientists are raising alarm about over-harvest not only in the past year but in the past three to five years,” Telecky continued. “Canada and the other parties to the Polar Bear Agreement urgently need to address this problem.” [more]

Polar Bears in Peril From Climate Change and Hunting


  1. Jim Steele said...

    Less summer ice has benefitted the whole food chain from plankton to cod to seals to bears! Read Why Less Summer Ice Increases Polar Bear Populations  

  2. rpauli said...

    Pity they are one of the species that will be going extinct.

    Sad goodbyes, but we hope humans have a little more time.  

  3. seemorerocks said...

    I have tried several time to find out more about the plot of the polar bears - it seems the work of scientists in US and Canada is being suppressed. An article from out NZ paper said that Charles Monnett, who has investigated polar bear deaths, has left his job, his work 'reassigned'  

  4. Anonymous said...

    There is a ton of factual information about polar bears online, unlike the recommended 'essay' by Jim Steel.

    Dead bears abound, virtually in every location they're found.

    Reason: insufficient food. Birth cycles disrupted, cub death.

    Cause: Human induced global climate change.  


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