Statement – CITES Proposal to Transfer the Polar Bear to Appendix I
February 14, 2013
Foreign controlled animal rights activists and environmental organizations from outside Canada are continuing to use the Canadian Arctic in their destructive and uninformed campaigns to raise funds for the alleged goals of saving the North’s environment, its wildlife and stopping climate change.
These groups have, once again, convinced the United States’ Obama administration to propose at a March 2013 meeting in Bangkok, that the polar bear be transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (or CITES). This comes three years after an unsuccessful 2010 attempt was defeated by CITES member states. The proposal to transfer the polar bear from one appendix to the other would mean an immediate global trade ban on polar bears; the Inuit of Canada who reside in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Labrador and Quebec, and the Inuit of Greenland and Alaska would no longer be able to sell any part of a polar bear to any source outside of their country.
This proposed transfer is based on overstated claims that harvesting, trade and climate change are threatening the species. However, Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, or ITK, which is Canada’s national organization representing all Inuit, has stated that:
“Just like the current US proposal, the 2010 proposal was politically motivated and factually flawed, and was campaigned by animal rights organizations in the US to misuse CITES as a tool to impose an arbitrary ban that has no basis in addressing climate change.”
Unfortunately, Canada’s Inuit, with support from our federal government’s Ministry of the Environment – and I thank Minister Kent for his support – must once again spend precious time and resources convincing nations who are signatories to CITES that an Appendix I transfer is unfounded and unwarranted and would place what ITK calls “…[a] black mark on what is a polar bear management success story in Canada’s Arctic…while attacking Inuit livelihoods in the process.”
I encourage all the Honourable Senators to read a report by ITK on their website entitled “Polar Bear Ban: A Precautionary Tale” as it includes important facts such as Canada being home to approximately 16,000 polar bears, a number that has remained at sustainable levels since the first transfer proposal in 2010 with continued harvesting by the Inuit of approximately 600 bears per annum which translates to 3.75% of Canada’s polar bear population. Such harvesting has not hampered population growth and, in fact, the Canadian and global polar bear populations have steadily increased since the early 1970s.
Despite scientific evidence and Inuit knowledge which support the responsible, managed harvesting of polar bears by Inuit in Canada, a growing number of CITES signatories such as the UK, the Netherlands, Russia and Germany are supporting the US proposal.
I urge all Honourable Senators to support efforts by Canadian Inuit and our government to defeat the US proposals.