(October 16, 2009 – Ottawa, Canada) Duane Smith, President of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, says the USA proposal to stop world trade in polar bear hides ignores the demonstrated ability of Inuit to manage their own resources wisely and sustainably.

The USA is submitting a proposal for consideration at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in March 2010 that would transfer the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I. Appendix I species are considered threatened by extinction, and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species.

“Canadian Inuit are successfully managing their polar bear populations without interference from the USA government or special interest groups,” says Smith. “Our well-functioning wildlife organizations in Arctic Canada, co-managed by Inuit hunters and government biologists, take into account the many variables affecting polar bear populations, including climate change, when they set hunting quotas and issue directives to maintain healthy polar bear populations. Canadian polar bear populations are currently healthy. If, in the future, they are threatened, the management bodies would review their processes and adjust accordingly. We should let them do their job.”

Foreign tourists and sport hunters who sometimes accompany Inuit in their harvest of set polar bear quotas provide important income for entire communities and have no effect whatsoever on the quotas set to maintain healthy bear populations. The position of the Canadian government is that international trade is itself not a threat to the species population, that a sustainable and well-managed hunt is an important part of a conservation plan, and that an outright ban on trade will have no impact on quotas, but might have a negative impact on conservation.

Using climate change as a pretext, various special interest groups have made the polar bear a poster animal for their campaigns. Misusing the bear in this way will do nothing to halt climate change. The fact is that the USA proposal will not save polar bears from the effects of climate change. It will only damage Inuit communities that practise a small and sustainable hunt.

Duane Smith concludes, “The USA proposal challenges our right as Inuit to sustainably exercise our traditional rights and practices to harvest polar bears. We are becoming an endangered species ourselves.”

The US proposal will be voted upon at the 15th CoP, March 13-24, 2010.

For further information, contact: Duane Smith, President
Corinne Gray, Executive Director ICC Canada

Ottawa, Canada 613-563-2642