Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic February 11, 2013 - 9:55 am

WWF gives Nunavut money for polar bear research

“Respecting the traditional cultural rights of the Inuit hunt”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
The World Wildlife Fund said that in donating money to help Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do polar bear research, they do so out of respect for the traditional cultural rights of Inuit. (FILE PHOTO)
The World Wildlife Fund said that in donating money to help Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do polar bear research, they do so out of respect for the traditional cultural rights of Inuit. (FILE PHOTO)

Saying they want to support polar bear research and the cultural rights of Inuit hunting, the World Wildlife Fund has contributed $111,000 to the Government of Nunavut and $82,000 to the Government of the Northwest Territories to help pay the cost of carrying out polar bear population surveys.

That money was raised from individual Canadians through the “Arctic Home” campaign and matched by the Coca-Cola Company.

“This underscores our commitment to work with local people and governments to maintain sustainable polar bear populations,” said Martin von Mirbach, the director of WWF’s Arctic program.

“We are proud to help support the Governments of Nunavut and Canada in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the polar bear,” he said.

The purpose of WWF’s financial contribution is to help improve knowledge about polar bears in Canada.

Research projects are underway across the Canadian Arctic to update information about the status of polar bears in Baffin Bay-Kane Basin, and Viscount Melville Sound.

Accurate population estimates are necessary for the effective conservation of polar bears, and current population surveys are an important part of sustainable management.

“Polar bears are very important to Inuit, culturally, spiritually and economically,” said Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management for the Government of Nunavut.

“Nunavut has faced some questions about our management of the bears, and so our response is to demonstrate to the world that we are managing Nunavut populations sustainably,” he said.

That starts with a commitment to research to make sure management decisions based on up-to-date reliable information on the status of sub-populations, Gissing said.

Results from Baffin Bay surveys will be completed and shared in April 2013.

For a sustainable future, business, government and civil organizations such as the WWF have to work together, Gissing said.

The president of Coca-Cola agreed.

“We are pleased to have made this contribution to the continued health of polar bear populations while respecting the traditional cultural rights of the Inuit hunt,” Nicola Kettlitz said.

There are various reasons why a subpopulation may be targeted for surveying efforts: updated information needed for harvest management, impacts of a changing ice regime, or the span of time since the last survey.

In the case of Viscount Melville Sound, the existing population surveys need to be updated because too much time has gone by since the last survey.

“In Baffin Bay, management and harvest is shared between Canada and Greenland, making good, current information [more] important to ensure a sustainable harvest level,” the release said.

Of the 13 polar bear sub-populations in Canada, Nunavut is either partly or totally involved in 12 of them.

There are 13 subpopulations in Canada: one is shared with the United States while three are shared with Greenland.

The 13 subpopulations in Canada are surveyed between five and 15 year intervals.

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