EU Helps Stuff Polar Bears at CITES

Thursday, March 7, 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

Several EU member states were today forced to vote against a proposal to give the already endangered polar bear more protection at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) after the European Commission failed to support it.

Backed by the United States and Russia, the proposal sought to uplist the species to Appendix I, which would have effectively banned international commercial trade of polar bear parts and products. Canada, the European Union, Norway and several other nations vocally opposed the proposal.  It was rejected by 38 votes for, 42 against and 46 abstentions.

“By abstaining from such a critical vote the EU has seriously discredited its position on conservation and biodiversity issues as well as having helped bring the extinction of polar bears a step closer,” said IFAW EU Director Sonja Van Tichelen. “We knew before this year’s conference that a majority of EU member states, including the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium, supported the proposal but they have been forced into abstaining because the European Commission refused to support it. As well as going against the majority of its own member states, the EU’s decision also flies in the face of public opinion.”

Only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remain in the wild, living in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States. Leading polar bear scientists believe that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear populations will be lost by the year 2050.

More than 400 polar bears are needlessly exploited, hunted and killed annually to supply the demand for their fur and parts. Additionally, illegally killed bears are disguised as legal trade and sold on markets. Behind climate change, hunting is the second largest threat to polar bears. Compounded with habitat degradation, melting sea ice, poaching, and pollution from oil and gas operations, these threats put already dwindling populations at severe risk.

“This is extremely disappointing for Russians and Russian polar bears. The commercial trade in polar bears from Canada the cover for the illegal killing and trafficking or Russian polar bears,” said Masha Vorontsova, Russian Regional Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

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