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Will Canada ban polar bear trophy hunting?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Last year, amid much media hoopla, polar bears (Ursus maritimus) received protected status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. One aspect of that protection is that American hunters, who often travel to Canada to hunt polar bears, can no longer  bring their trophies into the U.S.

Canada considers polar bears to be a "species of special concern," and has quotas on hunts, which remain both legal and profitable. Quotas vary by province and polar bear population area — for example, this year hunters are allowed to harvest 105 polar bears in the Baffin Bay region. About 60 percent of the world’s 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears live in Canada.

Those hunts could soon be affected by the international community. Later this month, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement governing international trade in specimens of endangered or threatened animals and plants, is set to discuss whether to ban the export and import of polar bear-hunt trophies among all of the convention’s 175 signatory nations, including the U.S., Canada and China. A decision could result in a ban of trophy exports, which would effectively end polar bear sport hunting in Canada.

The Canadian Wildlife Service, which implements CITES regulations on behalf of the Canadian government, has a major part in that decision. According to a report in The Nunatsiaq News, the agency is considering several options, among them reducing or ending sport-hunting harvests in up to four different polar bear population areas.

The Nanutsiaq News says that sports hunting of polar bears in the Nunavut province alone has been estimated to pull in profits of C$2.9 ($2.4 million) annually.

And here’s where it gets interesting: hunting quotas are actually established for Inuit communities, who are allowed to hunt polar bears for sustenance, but can sell a small number of their hunting "tags" to non-indigenous sports hunters, who often pay upwards of $30,000 per hunt, according to a report by Canwest News Service. If CITES bans the international transport of polar bear trophies, it would not end hunting of polar bears in Canada, but it would cut off a major revenue source for local indigenous communities.CITES decisions, however, are not supposed to be based on socio-economic conditions.

Worldwide, polar bears are considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. *Populations stand at an estimated 20,000 to 25,000.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

*Clarification (posted 4/24/09): Because of controversy over the historical number of polar bears, we have deleted part of the sentence marked with an asterisk.

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  1. 1. KassieSiegel 2:23 pm 04/18/2009

    One of President Bushs last acts in office was to issue regulations weakening the protections that the polar bear receives under the Endangered Species Act. On the campaign trail, President Obama pledged to revoke Bushs Endangered Species Act regulations, and Congress then granted his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a golden opportunity to rescind the rules entirely with no more than the stroke of a pen, but this special authority extends only until May 9th. Please ask Secretary Salazar to protect the polar bear by rescinding the Bush rules at

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  2. 2. Shoshin 7:35 am 04/19/2009

    The polar bear population is growing and thriving. Must be from all the money that the SCIAM advertisers are sending… not. The myth of the polar bear population being in danger was created as a marketing tool, just as Walt Disney created the myth of lemmings running into the sea.

    The polar bear is being exploited by the eco-fascists as a money raising tool. None of the funds find their way to the Arctic. The local governments and Inuit people provide support for polar bear research. They do however support a growing cadre of political apparatchiks.

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  3. 3. raseclamid 2:31 am 04/21/2009

    Because of the glacier melting in the Artic region more and more Polar Bears are drowning. The iceberg that they use to climb on in between swim are getting fewer and farther. All attempt to save this species must be done immediately.

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  4. 4. kraweg 12:22 pm 04/23/2009

    I think this issue should be seperated from that of global warming.The polar bear is an endangered species now,mostly due to the fact that it has nowhere to hide such as under trees and in caves which dont exist in its natural habitat.Even if you dont buy into the propaganda of global warming,think about the reality of this situation and how human beings will have been responsible for killing off whatever few are left untill they no longer exist in the wild at all.

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  5. 5. verdai 7:25 pm 04/27/2009

    It is extremely hard for me to believe that humans are capable of killing
    polar bears now.
    Please, God, Transport them to the tundra in the time of their affliction.

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  6. 6. username5 12:25 pm 05/6/2009

    Because of the glacier melting in the Artic region more and more Polar Bears are drowning. The iceberg that they use to climb on in between swim are getting fewer and farther. All attempt to save this species must be done immediately.

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  7. 7. 4ng3l0fd4rkn3ss 10:42 pm 05/19/2009

    i find killing polarbears a very horrible act especially when there such a lovely creature. i dont understand how ppl are capeble of killing them either i find it very very cruel maybe they should be hunter instead and then lets ssee how they like it. i no i no i sholdnt no anything im just a teen wif dreams of paleoclimatology lolz but still its horrible as to be killing them after all there innocent, its bad enough as it is with the polar ice caps melting and now the ppl afe killing them. its pathetic. i bet yall have stopped reading this by now but i find it stupid its like those ppl killing the seals for a flippen sport its horrible and sad and we should trade places with the seals, polar bears, whales and every other animal that gets killed for a sport and then see how we like it becoz i no for a god damn good fact that i woldnt like it. even penguins are cute. those little tuxes on there cute lil furry bodies. yes some animals are vicious towards up but i dont blame em. howd u like to be shot, clubbed over the head, stabbed, drowned etc etc. i no you probaly think this is stupid but get over it bcoz i feel sorry for them n i no there are others whu do to. this may nt make any scence at all n if ur gonna reply please dont be a jerk about it please. im just one of those ppl whu say screw those bastered killers GO TO HELL!!!

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  8. 8. lippertim 2:57 am 08/29/2009

    Well if you are going to go off on a rant about an issue you should at least be able to spell a majority of your words correctly. If you actually look up some facts you would realize that sportsmen and hunters actually care more and supply more money to conservation than your so called "conservation" groups. This is what we like to do, so it makes no sense for use to decimate a population of wildlife so no future generations get a chance to see these animals. Search for the truth before you post nonsense.

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  9. 9. ian_the_chemist 8:39 am 10/26/2009

    It strikes me that the yearly removal of some hundreds from a population of around 25,000 polar bears is unlikely to be sustainable – I wonder whether the population is stable at that figure? I’ll admit that for some species a certain amount of hunting is perfectly acceptable within conservation of that species – red deer in the UK for instance, for whom there are no natural predators (wolves are extinct in the UK). Has a proper study been made of the pros and cons of hunting in this case?

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  10. 10. A concerned Canadian 5:35 pm 01/24/2010

    In 1969 there was an estimated 10,000 polar bears. Now there is 20,000 – 25,000 polar bears. That is a giant increase in population.

    Not really sure what the problem is. Maybe we should be more concerned about the rhino, tiger, giant panda, elephant and gorillas who have populations of under 5,000.

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  11. 11. sharab 5:44 pm 03/18/2010

    The Polar Bear was made by God as a wild animal for human consumption, just as all animals were once wild. The only reason they get so much attention is because they are white. Just as the seal hunt off Newfoundland is a political money making campaign for Greenpeace, so the Polar Bear will be used. However, every year we still have millions of seals around NL every March so do we have a number of Polar Bear. As far as Global warming is concerned – we cannot change the evolution of time but we can change the fact that so many people are getting rich by telling me what I can and cannot hunt and making Global warming an issue that will be around forever. We are more consciencious of polution than ever before, and so we should be, however some people will listen to BS without doing the correct research themselves. Just as Paul McCartney was blasting the NL seal hunt when he was actually in PEI. These people need to help the starving children of the world, and if that means kill a few more animals so be it. If India killed a few Cattle, instead worshiping them, and fed the starving children they wouldn’t have so much disease and starvation in the country.

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