Big Shock: Nunavut is Opposing Polar Bear Conservation

Polar bear (Tim Knepp, USFWS)


The Montreal Gazette reported last week that the Canadian Province Territory of Nunavut (where most of the world’s polar bears can be found) is opposing efforts to protect bears under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.  The paper reports that conservation groups are reacting with “dismay” to the Territory's position that their polar bear populations are “very, very healthy.”  Andrew Derocher, one of the world’s foremost polar bear scientists rightly points out that this position is completely disconnected from scientific reality:

"Nunavut is really not addressing the science, and to date there has not been any report released to back up the position of Nunavut," he said. “[T]the long-term situation for polar bears is extremely dire."

But, really, the Territory's position should come as no big surprise.  Nunavut vociferously opposed any and all attempts to protect polar bears at the last meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  Their position then was exactly the same as it is now: polar bear populations are healthy, so leave us alone.  In fact, the Territory is well known for setting polar bear harvest levels above even what their own scientists recommend.  At the time, however, efforts to increase  polar bear protection under international law was met by deafening silence by Canadian polar bear scientists and even opposition by some Canadian environmental groups.  It’s heartening to see Dr. Derocher speaking out about Nunavut’s misstatements now.  This time, let’s hope he is joined by the Canadian conservation community and, just as importantly, let’s hope they remember Nunavut’s intransigence when the next CITES convention rolls around.