Press ReleaseJun 11, 2012
Markey and 42 Dems to Salazar: Ban International Trade of Polar Bear Parts
Polar Bears Threatened by Increased Hunting, Temperatures
WASHINGTON (June 11, 2012) – Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and 42 House Democrats today called on Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar to advocate for the ban the international commercial trade of polar bear parts and stronger protections for the bears from trophy hunting. The iconic bears are already threatened by a loss of sea ice habitat from climate change, and now the market for polar bear parts and carcasses are on the rise.
In the letter to Salazar, which is available HERE, Rep. Markey and his colleagues ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to submit a proposal to transfer polar bears from Appendix II to the more protective Appendix I of the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the next international meeting occurring in March 2013.
“Greater protections for polar bears are needed to strengthen populations so they will have the best chance of survival,” writes Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and his colleagues. “With the polar bear’s plight getting worse over the last two years – record prices for polar bear skins, unsustainable harvest of polar bears in Canada (the only country that still allows the killing of polar bears for international trade), and new evidence of polar bears’ habitat melting away – the case is stronger than ever for securing stronger protections under CITES.”
Almost forty years ago, CITES was formed to ensure that international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten species’ survival. The polar bear was given a modest level of protection on July 7, 1975, when it was listed in Appendix II of CITES. While receiving some protection, species listed in Appendix II may still be commercially traded on the global market and may be subject to trophy hunting. Moving polar bears to Appendix I would provide further protections by banning the international commercial trade in bear parts and place additional restrictions on trophy hunting.
Scientists, governments, and the public understand that climate change will be devastating to polar bears – a threat not contemplated when they were first listed in Appendix II. The polar bear’s habitat is the annual sea ice over the continental shelf and inter-island archipelagoes of the Arctic basin. As this rapidly melts away, the best scientific estimates show polar bear populations declining by two-thirds within the next 40 years. Arctic sea ice is below the average extent this year, and has been rapidly declining for decades as the Arctic has warmed.
Two years ago, the FWS urged CITES that the sale of polar bear skins, teeth, claws and skulls was compounding the loss of polar bear habitat due to climate change. Data indicate that the market for polar bear carcasses and parts are on the rise with over 31,000 live polar bears, carcasses or parts exported to 73 different countries between 1992 and 2006. The scientific evidence to this effect is even more compelling as we move into the 2013 CITES negotiations with record high prices fetched for polar bear hides earlier this year.