U.S. lists polar bears as 'threatened' species
I think this is really good news, but is has some Canadians wondering about the hunting of polar bears and how that will affect them.
The decision follows concerns from scientists that two-thirds of the polar bears could disappear by mid-century because of sea ice loss due to global warming.
Several American activist groups, including Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity, have also been lobbying hard to have polar bears listed as threatened. Experts now believe there are up to 25,000 polar bears remaining on the planet, and that number is in decline.
Listing the polar bear as a threatened species means all U.S. federal agencies will have to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.
But the decision will also impact Inuit hunters, especially in Nunavut, who profit from U.S. hunters coming north for trophy hunts for bears. The industry can net Inuit guides thousands of dollars per hunt.
The Nunavut government opposed listing the species as threatened, as politicians fear it could lead to a ban on the import of trophy bear hunts and potentially bar American sport hunters from bringing the hides of the animals back home with them, severely limiting the appeal of the hunt.
Polar bears have been a species "of special concern" in Canada since 1991 — one step below "threatened" and two steps down from "endangered." Last month, the scientific committee that evaluates species at risk recommended that the federal government retain the "special concern" designation for the polar bear.
Environment Minister John Baird has said that Canada will not necessarily follow the lead of the U.S. But some scientists have said it would be difficult for Canada to justify not giving polar bears a similar designation.