February 2, 2001
IQALUIT If hunters in the Kitikmeot region still hope that theyll be back out hunting polar bears in the MClintock Channel soon, theyre probably dreaming in technicolour.
Thats because an impending U.S. ban on the sports hunt there could last up to 10 years.
Nunavuts own moratorium on the polar bear hunt wont take effect until 2002, and could be theoretically lifted within a couple of years.
But theres little hope that the U.S. decision to ban the importation of polar bear trophies from the MClintock Channel will change any time in the near future.
The "interim emergency rule" announced Jan. 5 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped the issuance of any more permits for sports-hunted polar bear trophies from the MClintock Channel into the U.S. for any bears hunted after May 31, 2000.
"Even with no harvest, the recovery of the population will be slow," reads the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Maggie Tieger, a spokesperson for the wildlife service, said theres "nothing promising" in any information her agency has received from Canadian authorities.
"It will stand," Tieger said. "Of the 13 [polar bear] populations Canada has, were already approved six of them. This is the first time were had to change the decision."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has a 60-day waiting period before making its decision official and binding. During this period, it can receive comments and consider whether its decision should be changed.
But Tieger said only new, more encouraging information will eventually lead to a reissuance of permits for trophies from the MClintock Channel.
Meanwhile, she said, more research needs to be done.
"The question is: what is the habitat capable of carrying? What is really causing this decrease?" Tieger said.
The information the U.S. officials received from the Canadian Wildlife Service said there are only about 288 polar bears in the MClintock Channel population, rather than 700, as earlier estimated.
This research indicated that without a reduction in the hunt, the population could decline and be reduced to zero within 10 years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines whether a hunt has scientifically sound quotas that sustain the polar bear population.
Due to the low estimates for the MClintock Channel polar bear population, it decided not to condone any more hunting there, by clamping down on import permits.
"Once it closes, we have to evaluate it. I cant tell when if ever theyll be able to bring back hunting," Tieger said.