CITES - Polar Bear Loses

polar bear

polar bear

Committee I: Polar Bear - Proposal #3 . Transfer the iconic polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I.  The proposal was introduced by the USA,  supported by the Russian Federation and  Comores. Opposing the proposal were Greenland, Norway, Ukraine, Denmark, South Africa, Brazil, Kuwait, Japan & Canada opposed the proposal. An Inuit representative from Canada also made an intervention against the proposal, saying his people hunt polar bears for food, for clothing and trade in hides and are in the best position to manage polar bear populations. The Western Fish and Wildlife said it does not support the proposal and notes that’s climate change threatens many species but CITES is concerned with international trade.

The EU (Ireland) noted that global climate change is increasing pressure on polar bears by restricting their habitat and proposed a compromise amendment which would leave polar bears on Appendix II with the following: Range states to set export quotas at appropriate levels for each subpopulation, assess the international (and the illegal trade), and provide comprehensive information to the Animals Committee at their next meeting. The compromise amendment supports the status quo and does little or nothing to protect polar bears from unsustainable commercial trade and encourages illegal trade and poaching.

Niger stated that the EU, “for political and diplomatic reasons, submitted its amendment at the last minute and it is not based on science.” Egypt’s Dr. Moustafa Fouda, noted that the “Parties opposing the proposal claim they have had management of polar bears for 40 years, but what science has been provided to us? Where is the science? Is it true that polar bears are declining? Is it true that international trade is increasing? We need to know the real situation now. They tell us that climate change can be addressed somewhere else? Where?” The delegates and observers applauded Dr. Fouda, a rare event at CITES.

Israel said that while  it supported the EU comprise, it cannot be accepted because it does not qualify as a substantive annotation. The Chair disagreed, Israel challenged the ruling, and was put to a vote. The Chair prevailed with 73%, 28% against, and 15% abstaining.

Paraguay noted that while initially opposed to the amendment, the significant decline in the population was of concern and asked for input from IUCN. IUCN specialist group noted it is difficult to determine rate of declines because they also tied to climate change. Natural Resources Defense Fund said it supports the proposal, and notes that none of the range states engages in commercial trade with the exception of Canada which does not set quotas, in Canada quotas are set at the provincial level. The Hudson Bay population  of polar bears as well as others in Canada have decreased substantially, and the value of polar bear hides auctioned in Canada has increased 340%.  The Center for Biological Diversity stated that the science supports the proposal; the trade is significant and the populations of polar bears are plummeting.

Debate closed. The EU’s  proposal to amend the US proposal failed: 63% yes, 43% opposed, and 17% abstained.

The US proposal was not accepted: 38% in favor, 42% opposed and 48% abstained. The proposal to transfer the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I failed to achieve the necessary 2/3rds of votes.