Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 10, 2014 - 5:55 am

Inuit groups decry conservation listing proposal for polar bears

Norway proposing to list polar bears under migratory species convention

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Polar bears, such as this one photographed at Wager Bay, Nunavut, are protected under a 40-year-old agreement signed in 1973 by Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark, but a new proposal would give them an “unfavourable conservation status” under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals . (PHOTO BY ANSGAR WALK/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)
Polar bears, such as this one photographed at Wager Bay, Nunavut, are protected under a 40-year-old agreement signed in 1973 by Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark, but a new proposal would give them an “unfavourable conservation status” under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals . (PHOTO BY ANSGAR WALK/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

Inuit attending a conference this week in Ecuador that focuses on international rules governing migratory species, say a proposal to list polar bears in yet another global convention is unnecessary and might actually undermine current species management in Canada.

Norway is proposing that the polar bear be listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, a convention to which Canada is considered a “range state,” meaning migratory species spend at least some part of the year there.

This is a problem.

Because If polar bears are deemed to have an “unfavourable conservation status” and wind up in Appendix II of that convention, Canada would be compelled to negotiate international agreements for their conservation and management.

“The [Canadian Migratory Species] has an ethical responsibility to consider how a polar bear listing will help — rather than undermine — the complex work involved in adaptively managing the species,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Terry Audla, in a Nov. 6 news release.

“The proposal under consideration does not explain how a listing will enhance existing conservation mechanisms at the international, national and regional levels — some of them more than 40 years old — that are well-managed and collaborative, supporting both the conservation of the polar bear and the interests of Inuit.”

Just last December, Canada and four other states renewed the 40-year-old international agreement on polar bear conservation that was first negotiated in 1973, agreeing to add “traditional ecological knowledge” to their management systems.

But, Audla says, the Appendix II proposal for the migratory species convention is recommended, “by a coalition of organizations that vilify Inuit hunting and trade.”

Duane Smith, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada), warned in the same news release that this kind of listing can be politically motivated and serve as a “publicity platform” for animal rights and environmental groups.

“What needs to be supported,” Smith said in the release, “is Inuit long-term and hard-earned investments in the on-the-ground management that responds to environmental stressors affecting both wildlife and our communities.”

Jim Goudie, the Nunatsiavut Government’s wildlife manager, is representing Canadian Inuit in Quito, Ecuador this week.

“In Canada, we manage two-thirds of the world’s polar bear sub-populations through modern land claim treaties and co-management regimes,” Goudie said. “Our management systems are highly responsive to ensure sub-population sustainability.”

Just last December, Canada and four other states signed

Based on information from the Convention on Migratory Species website, 79 migratory species pass through or reside in Canada, mostly birds, whales and turtles.

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