An international meeting of government wildlife officials rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the global trade of polar bear parts Thursday, following an impassioned appeal by Canadian Inuits to preserve polar bear hunting in their communities.
There are between 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears living in the wild in Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway, according to the most recent analysis, which was conducted in the early 1990s. Scientists project that as Arctic summer sea ice shrinks, many polar bear populations could decline by 66 percent by mid-century.
Canada is the only nation with polar bears that allows sports hunting. With two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population, Canada exports at least 300 polar bears for sale each year.
Terry Audla, who represents Canada’s indigenous Arctic peoples as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, told delegates gathered in Bangkok for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Florathat eliminating the global trade of polar bears would harm the Inuits’ local economy. The species is listed on Appendix II of CITES, which requires a permit for anyone selling polar bear parts to a buyer overseas.