Conservationists reject polar bear trade ban

A proposal to ban the international trade of polar bear parts was rejected at a Bangkok gathering of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species after being opposed by Canada, Greenland, and Norway.

Scott Sorensen
Two polar bears seen on the Arctic ice during a research cruise to map the ice in 3D.

A bid to ban the international trade of polar bear pelts and other parts was rejected today (March 7) at a major meeting of conservationists in Bangkok.

The proposal was submitted by the United States at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and it would have upgraded the status of polar bears in the CITES Treaty, making international commercial trade in the species illegal. It was shut down with a final vote of 38 in favor, 42 against and 46 abstentions.

"We are obviously disappointed that the CITES membership failed to give greater protection to polar bears by limiting permissible trade in polar bear pelts and other body parts," David J. Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said in a statement. "We will continue to work with our partners to reduce the pressure that trade in polar bear parts puts on this iconic Arctic species, even as we take on the longer term threat that climate change poses to polar bears."

The proposal was backed by Russia but opposed by Canada, Greenland and Norway, all of which have polar bear populations within their borders. Inuit groups in particular voiced strong opposition to the ban, arguing that it would have threatened their livelihoods and that the bears are being hunted responsibly in the Canadian Arctic.

Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. delegation at CITES, said high prices for polar bear hides have driven an increase in hunting and that the ban "would have ensured that commercial trade would not compound the threats of habitat loss that are facing this species."

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the hides sell for an average of $2,000 to $5,000, but can sometimes top $12,000. The agency estimates that about 3,200 polar bear parts —  including skins, claws and teeth — are exported or re-exported from countries that are home to the species.

Conservationists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, and their populations are threatened by declining Arctic sea ice, oil development and pollutants. In May 2008, the United States listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, while in Canada and Russia they are listed as a species of special concern.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescienceFacebook & Google+Original article on LiveScience.com.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.