This Summer Was Horrible for Polar Bears; Will They Finally Get Some Good News?

Polar Bear (Photo by USGS) 

This Summer Was Horrible for Polar Bears; Will They Finally Get Some Good News?

It was a bad summer for polar bears; the Arctic sea ice, upon which they depend to survive, melted to an unprecedented level.  But as last week closed, the Russian Federation announced that it will support the US if it submits a proposal to ban the global trade in polar bear parts (claws, skins, skulls, teeth), which could save hundreds of polar bears from being killed for profit every year.  The deadline for the US to make such a proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is this Thursday, October 4.  So, as my colleague Andrew Wetzler notes, it’s Clutch Time for Polar Bears: Will the United States Step Up?  If the Obama Administration submits such a proposal, polar bears will get some much needed good news.

On September 16, sea ice appeared to reach its minimum extent for the year – its lowest seasonal minimum extent in the satellite record since 1979.  Five years ago, Arctic sea-ice records were smashed by disappearing ice.  This year’s melt was even more dramatic, with an additional loss of 293,000 square miles of ice – an area about the size of Texas.  This loss of sea ice is outpacing all of the “worst-case” scenarios that leave more than two-thirds of polar bears extinct by 2050.  I haven’t seen any revised estimates, but it’s clear that polar bear populations are going to plummet well before 2050.

If this information wasn’t enough to get the United States to demand an end to the international polar bear fur trade, the news that Russia – a key polar bear “range state” (i.e., states where polar bears live) – will support a US proposal should seal the deal.

But, as usual, time is not on the polar bear’s side.  The US must act by October 4.  So please take a few moments and ask the President to continue showing environmental leadership and protect the world’s polar bears from international trade.

About the Authors

Zak Smith

Senior Attorney, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program

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