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2013-03-05. US and Russia unite in bid to strengthen protection for polar bear

posted Mar 6, 2013, 10:05 AM by Alan Gould
| Damian Carrington in Bangkok guardian.co.uk. Relevant to GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8. Excerpt: A fight to protect polar bears from Arctic hunters has led cold war foes the US and Russia to unite against Canada.... The bitter row is over the 600 or so of the polar species killed each year by Canadian hunters, most of which are exported as bear skin rugs, fangs or paws. ...the European Union attempted to block the US proposal.... The US is adamant the trade is unsustainable. "The best scientific evidence says two-thirds of the polar bear population will be gone by mid-century, so how can you have a sustainable commercial trade?" asked Dan Ashe, head of the US delegation to the 178-nation meeting of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) being held in Thailand. Canada, home to about three-quarters of the world's 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, is the only country that allows the export of polar bear products. Its delegates argue there is "insufficient scientific evidence" that polar bear populations will decline by more than half in the coming decades and that trade is "not detrimental to the species". They say hunting and trading in polar bears is "integrally linked" with Inuit subsistence and culture. All experts agree that the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is the greatest threat to polar bears, who need the ice to hunt seals. But Canada argues that the impact on polar bears of shrinking ice, which reached record low levels in 2012, is "uncertain". Nikita Ovsyanikov, a leading polar bear expert and member the Russian delegation, rejects all the Canadian arguments.  ...The US and EU proposals are expected to go to the vote on Wednesday or Thursday, with many delegates predicting that Canada is set to lose. If so, the new rules will enter force within 90 days. Hunting for polar bears by Inuit peoples would still be permitted under Canada's domestic law, but exporting the skins would not..... See full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/05/us-russia-unite-polar-bear.