Imagine your habitat cracking and melting beneath your feet, leaving you little access to food and large distances to swim, this is the stress endured by polar bears. Now to add to this stress of a deteriorating home, you have hunters after you as well. You would think, as the poster child for the melting arctic, there would be some laws to protect polar bears against needless hunting but yet the Humane Society International says Canadian polar bear kills are up 10 percent in the last few years!
If the increase in polar bear harvest was for just one year, it could be tossed up to a miscalculation but polar bear harvest have been up for a few years now. Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife at Humane Society International says even “Canada’s own scientist are raising the alarm about over-harvest not only in the past year but in the past three to five years.”
The reason behind this rise in polar bear harvest is due to a lack of hunting restrictions as well as the increasing demand for polar bear parts in international trade, which Canada continues to allow. The price of polar bear hide has quadrupled since 2007 with an average price of $22,000 for just one hide. Where demand is higher, like in China, prices for a single polar bear hide can exceed $80,000.
In Canada, any regulations or restrictions of polar bear hunting is determined by the provincial and territorial jurisdictions. All seem to have some sort of regulation, however some are more intense than others. Manitoba is the only providence that prohibits hunting polar bears, while in Ontario and Quebec, only native people are allowed to hunt polar bears.
When it comes to the legality of hunting polar bears, it varies among the arctic countries. However, the international agreement on the conservation of polar bears allows for native populations to continue to hunt and use the bears.
Ironically, this news surfaced during the biennial meeting of the International Polar Bear Agreement in Moscow, Russia. The agreement dates back to 1973 and includes five countries: the United States, Russia (formally Soviet Union), Canada, Denmark/Greenland, and Norway. The agreement is supposed to foster international support in protecting polar bears from over harvesting and especially sport hunting.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there is approximately 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide. These polar bears are found in 19 distinct sub-populations surrounding the Arctic. There are 60 to 80 percent of all polar bears found in Canada. Although they are not officially listed as endangered, if nothing is done about the continued international trade, which spurs hunting, along with a deteriorating habitat of melting polar ice, the bears will become extinct in the future.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons