Photo via Cobbers
A ban backed by the United States to ban the international trade of polar bear skins, teeth and claws at the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has been shot down, due to opposition led by Canada and Norway. The US argued that the international trade of the bear parts was damaging populations that are already endangered by habitat loss caused by climate change. And yet. The arguments evidently weren't strong enough, as the ban failed, leaving the 20,000-25,000 polar bears believed to be in existence susceptible to trade. The proposal failed due to arguments from Canada, Norway, and Greenland that the "threat to polar bears from trade was minimal," according to the AP. They argued that polar bear hunting was important to Aboriginal people, and was central to their economies.
But it seems clear that the polar bear trade, while perhaps not the primary threat to the species' existence, is having a significant effect on the animals' population.
From the AP:
Data available on polar bear trade shows that since the early 1990s the market for polar bear carcasses and parts has increased. From 1992 to 2006, approximately 31,294 live polar bears, carcasses or parts were exported to 73 different countries, according to data collected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.With perhaps only 20,000 believed to be in existence, that's a pretty hefty percentage of the population that's falling to the bear-skin trade.
Skins are the most popular export item, and Canada is the largest commercial exporter.
The counter-argument came from a spokesman for the Aboriginal people. He said:
communities in the Arctic have hunted bears for generations, mostly for meat for food and pelts for clothing and shelter. He said they hunt them in a sustainable way and would continue doing so with or without an international ban. "We have always cared for land and the wildlife because we have a lot to lose," Pokiak told delegates. "If it wasn't for polar bears and other wildlife that we harvest, we wouldn't exist today."It again comes down to the ever-thorny dilemma--preserve and protect tradition, and and an ages-old livelihood? Or protect a single, diminishing, and endangered species?