EU Sells Out Polar Bears at CITES
The EU delegation currently in Thailand at an international conference is actively derailing the polar bear’s best chance of survival. While the United States, supported by the Russian Federation, is hours away from securing vital protections to ban a significant threat to polar bears—international commercial trade—the EU just put forward an alternate proposal that would validate Canada’s current unsustainable hunting levels. This has happened despite public support around the world and in the EU for saving this species already under dire threat from climate change and trade in polar bear claws, teeth, and skins.
“This is a misguided and foolish attempt to save face,” said Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW EU Regional Director. “The EU is trying desperately to push any position on polar bears that stop it from falling into irrelevancy - polar bears would then have to pay the ultimate cost.”
Canada is the only country in the world that still trades polar bear parts on the international market. Fueled by scarcity of the species, prices have soared to record levels and the number of polar bear skins offered at just one auction house has increased by 375% in the last 5 years. At the same time hunting quotas are rising to meet demand. For example, in Canada’s Western Hudson Bay polar bear population, hunting quotas were tripled in 2011 against the advice of both the Polar Bear Specialist Group and the Canadian federal government—and then raised again in 2012.
“This alternative proposal from the EU is not a compromise. It’s surrender. It does nothing to reduce unsustainable legal trade in Canada,” said Nikita Ovsyanikov, a Russian scientist and member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group. “In fact, it will stimulate more illegal trade and poaching of Russian polar bears.”