There seems to be a huge dispute regarding the measures to protect the Polar bear, as an endangered species, between the Canadian government and the European Parliament.
At least this is suggested by the basic documents submitted by these governments for the CITES conference in Doha, Qatar, 13 – 25 March 2010. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Appendix I provides the highest level of protection.
There is agreement on the Polar bear’s status being vulnerable for extinction (IUCN Red list), of course. But not on how to protect the Polar bear from going extinct. The Canadian government argu es that prohibiting trade of Polar bear bodies, skins and trophies will not solve this problem, because the bear’s decreasing population is merely due to climate change, they say. In their fact sheet submitted for the CITES conference of parties in Doha, which started yesterday, the Canadian government states that two third of the world’s total estimated population of Polar bears can be found on Canadian territory (15,000 vs 20,000 – 25,000). As if this automatically gives them the authority to decide on the measures to be taken (Moos).
The European Parliament’s strategic objective for the CITES conference, calls for a transfer of the Polar bear from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I, and is in line with the proposal for amendment submitted by the U.S.A. The reason behind this request is the increase of the international trade in Polar bear body parts since the 1990s, which has a negative impact on the population. The loss of habitat due to climate change is not disputed by the European Parliament, but the additional issue of trade in body parts is reason enough to change the Polar bear’s CITES status they argue. It will be interesting to see what decision will be made in Doha, Qatar.