U.S. regulators will not be pushing for a ban the polar bear fur trade at international talks this year, and the bear still won’t be put on a comprehensive list of species immediately threatened with extinction.
“Regarding polar bears, though we remain concerned about the commercial use of polar bear hides as an additional threat to the species, we are not pursuing increased CITES protections at this time,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in recent a statement ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which will take place in September in South Africa.
After trying for years to get polar bears listed on CITES’ “Appendix I” — a list of species threatened with immediate extinction and bans all international trade of products, like hides and such — the U.S. has decided to stop pushing for stricter controls on the polar bear hide trade, according to NunatsqiaqOnline.com.
Polar bears will remain “Appendix II” species. These are species that may be threatened in the future, but are doing fine right now. Indeed, polar bears are only listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act because they could be harmed by global warming.
The Obama administration tried to get polar bears listed on Appendix I in 2013, but failed to get enough support from other countries. Inuits and other native tribes in Canada and other countries heavily opposed Obama’s bid to ban the polar bear hide trade.
“We are putting our resources into working in collaboration with other polar bear range states to address climate change and mitigate its impacts on the polar bear as the overwhelming threat to the long-term future of the species,” FWS said in the middle of a paragraph buried at the very bottom of a long blog post.
But the Obama administration’s abandoning of its goal to ban polar bear hide trading comes after reports showing population numbers are way up since the 1960s due to hunting bans, despite fears global warming would decimate polar bear numbers.
“For years, the US has been trying to bully the international community into accepting their warped perception of Arctic species conservation,” Susan Crockford, a zoologist and polar bear expert, wrote in a recent blog post. “Polar bear numbers have not declined due to global warming or over-hunting, and face no immediate threat of extinction.”
Recently, scientists at Canada’s Lakehead University released findings there was “no evidence” polar bears are currently threatened by global warming.
“We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis,” Canadian scientists wrote in their study.
Scientists examined 13 polar bear subpopulations and found “much of the scientific evidence indicating that some polar bear subpopulations are declining due to climate change-mediated sea ice reductions is likely flawed by poor mark–recapture sampling.” This means researchers aren’t able to put together accurate “demographic parameters.”
Before that, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a report showing polar bear populations had actually increased since the 1990s. IUCN estimated there are between 20,000 and 31,000 polar bears worldwide.
Polar bears became the poster child for environmentalists who argued melting Arctic sea ice could kill thousands of bears that would have nowhere to rest while hunting in the summer months. Former Vice President Al Gore even featured polar bears swimming for their lives in his 2006 film on global warming.
Scientists, however, have increasingly been questioning alarmists, like Gore, and the U.S. government for listing the bears under the ESA. Indeed, there are way more polar bears alive today than 40 years ago.
Polar bears have also likely survived past ice-free periods in the Arctic. Scientists recently found there’s no evidence of marine life extinctions in the Arctic in the past 1.5 million years, despite the Arctic going through periods of prolonged periods with no summer ice cover.
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