Study Finds Little Local Economic Value in Trophy Hunting Polar Bears Hunts are of economic importance only to a handful of individuals

Friday, March 5, 2010
Washington, D.C.

A new study, The Economics of Polar Bear Trophy Hunting in Canada, jointly released today by Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare reveals that polar bear hunts provide little economic benefit to Canada’s Inuit communities. The study shows that the income derived from polar bear trophy hunting amounts to only a small fraction of Northern Canada’s economy, and is concentrated in few hands.

Polar bears in the wild live entirely within five countries: Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, Russia and the United States. There are presently between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears and the number is decreasing. Leading polar bear scientists believe that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be lost by mid-century because of habitat loss due to climate change. Canada is the only country that allows international commercial sale of hides of polar bears killed by indigenous hunters and is the only country that allows polar bear hunting.

The findings of this report include:

  • In the 1980s, the Government of the Northwest Territories (which at the time included all of present day Nunavut) established programs to promote and develop Inuit-led polar bear trophy hunting; there was almost no polar bear trophy hunting in Canada prior to that time. 
  • Nearly two thirds of Inuit communities do not host polar bear trophy hunts annually despite government prodding. 
  • Gross revenue from polar bear trophy hunts accounts for only one tenth of one percent of the economy of Nunavut;
  •  For 98% of polar bear trophy hunting communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, hunting revenue accounts for 2% or less of the average income of Inuit residents of these communities. 
  • In only 3 of 31 polar bear trophy hunting communities in Canada does the hunting revenue exceed 2% and even then it is only 10-13% the average income of Inuit residents of these communities.
  •  The pool of Canadians for whom income from polar bear trophy hunting has made a decisive economic difference is likely several dozen individuals at most. 
  • The number of polar bears trophy hunted in Canada increased from 4 in 1970-1981 to 96 in 1995-2008. This growth is attributed to a change in U.S. law that allowed American trophy hunters to import polar bears. In 2008, the U.S. banned polar bear trophy imports once again when the species was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Polar bears are already standing on thin ice. The last thing they need is a gun pointed at them,” said Jeff Flocken, D.C. office director for IFAW. “Hunting a species in danger of extinction is by definition unsustainable.  Now we also see that there is almost no local fiscal benefit to continued killing of these animals.  The time to end the trophy hunt of polar bears is now.”

A coalition of wildlife groups including Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare is calling for an international ban on the trade in polar bear parts—such as rugs-- at the upcoming meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, set for March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar.

“No country wants to be known as the one that put the last nail in the coffin of the polar bear,” said Dr. Teresa Telecky, wildlife department director for Humane Society International. “We implore CITES member countries to eliminate the threat that international commercial trade poses to this rapidly declining species.”

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