Polar bear trade probed
OTTAWA—Federal Environment minister Leona Aglukkaq says she is confident a new international review of Canada’s trade in polar bear parts will reaffirm this country’s conservation of the species.
The 180-country Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, agreed last week in Mexico to conduct a lengthy study into the global trade of the iconic Arctic bears.
“Canada has in place a strong management regime for the polar bear that is based on science and aboriginal traditional knowledge,” Aglukkaq said in an e-mail response after being contacted about the review by The Canadian Press.
“We are confident that Canada’s position will be reaffirmed through this review process.”
According to participants in last week’s meeting in Mexico, Canada did not object to the review, which it hopes will clear the air and confirm that the current bear trade is sustainable.
Ernie Cooper of the World Wildlife Fund Canada said the review was spurred in part by a dramatic 2010 spike in polar bear exports.
Cooper is the Canadian representative on an international organization that tracks global traffic in threatened species.
“If there are any indications that a species is being traded at levels that look suspicious, then a significant trade review may be required to have a closer look,” Cooper said in an interview.
However, Cooper conceded the 2010 data, upon closer examination, actually showed a lot of biological traffic in specimens such as blood and hair samples taken from tranquilized bears.
“A bit of blood taken from a live bear or a tooth taken from a bear that’s been hunted or some hair samples isn’t the same as a polar bear rug,” he noted.
“So a spike of 10,000 biological specimens does not mean 10,000 bears were killed.
“When you look at the data, the number of polar bear skins being traded had actually been reduced,” Cooper added.