U.S. Fails to Ban Polar Bear Trade (Update)

Gang up on Canada

Ryan O'Hanlon

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The U.S. and Russia are uniting against Canada in an effort to win a hockey gold med—er, no. They’re uniting to try to ban the international commercial trade of polar bear products. Canada, currently, is home to near 75 percent of the world’s remaining polar bears, and it’s also the only country that allows the export of polar bear products.

Around 600 polar bears are killed by Canadian hunters each year, and then exported for their, well, parts. The U.S., supported by Russia, has issued a proposal to ban the export trade. From The Guardian:

The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

A vote is expected within the next few days between the U.S. proposal and a European Union proposal, which would only require Canada “to report the number of polar bears exported and provide further information on trade and populations.”

UPDATE: The U.S. proposal was defeated, with 38 voting in favor, 42 against, and 46 abstaining. The exporting of polar bear products will remain legal in Canada.

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