Canada’s polar bear management is sound, Inuit tell U.S. government
"Up-listing to Appendix 1 will be detrimental to our hunting activities"
Inuit representatives are on Capitol Hill in Washington this week to make a last ditch effort to convince their American counterparts to reconsider the way they think about polar bears.
The United States, as a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), has tried in 2010 and 2013 to up-list polar bears into an Appendix I classification — where they would be deemed in immediate danger of extinction.
An Appendix I listing would come with an automatic ban on all international trade of polar bear parts.
But in the months ahead of the next world wildlife conference of signatories to CITES, which will take place in South Africa in September, Inuit groups hope to convince the U.S. otherwise.
“This is really Canada making a last push to explain to the U.S. that up-listing to Appendix 1 will be detrimental to our hunting activities,” said Adamie Delisle-Alaku, vice-president of renewable resources at Nunavik’s Makivik Corp.
“It’s really a last attempt.”
Delisle-Alaku is joined in Washington this week by representatives from the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. the Nunatsiavut Government and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
With the U.S. presidential primaries underway, Delisle-Alaku admits that it’s not the best time to get the U.S. government’s ear.
Still, Inuit representatives spent the day Feb. 9 in congressional meetings at the House of Representatives and with officials from the Council on Environmental Quality and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“We presented what’s going on with polar bears… how Canada has one of the best, if not the most robust, polar bear management [plans] in the world.,” Delisle-Alaku said.
“It’s the usual spiel; [we’re saying] that polar bears are being used as an iconic poster child for climate change,” he said, “and we need to differentiate the linkage between climate change and polar bear decline.”
Instead, Delisle-Alaku said that animal rights activists have largely succeeded in pushing a narrative that suggests the polar bear population is in decline, and could even be extinct in the next century.
“We’re explain to them that there’s no decline over the recent past, our harvest is sustainable and the trade is positive,” he said.
This Washington trip is one of a few efforts by Inuit groups in Canada in recent years to lobby against the up-listing of the polar bear and convince U.S. government representatives that Canada’s management system is sound.
Last September, the five nations with polar bear populations — Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Russia, Norway and the U.S. — signed a non-binding agreement to share information collected on polar bear populations, dubbed the “first-ever action plan” to protect the species and their habitat.