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For Immediate Release, November 10, 2011

Contact: Kassie Siegel,, (951) 961-7972

Canada Denies Much-needed Protections for Polar Bears

OTTAWA—  The Canadian government this week denied important and urgently needed protections for polar bears under the country’s Species At Risk Act. Instead of listing the imperiled bears as “threatened” or “endangered,” the government designated the bears as a “species of special concern,” which affords the bears no substantive protections.

“Canada is turning a blind eye to the deep trouble that polar bears are in. This designation is absurd in light of the science, ongoing population declines, and the increasingly frequent incidences of polar bears starving and drowning,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, which successfully petitioned and sued to protect polar bears under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. “The bear clearly warrants listing as at least ‘threatened,’ and more likely, ‘endangered.’ Canada needs to acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis and the fact that we need deep and rapid greenhouse pollution reductions to protect both polar bears and people.”

The decision, coming after years of illegal delay, ignores the well-documented impacts climate change will have on the gravely-imperiled bear and its vanishing sea-ice habitat. Canada’s listing also conflicts with the 2008 decision by the United States to list the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and the Polar Bear Specialist Group’s 2005 decision to list the polar bear as “vulnerable” due to projected declines from climate change.

Unlike an “endangered” or “threatened” listing under SARA, which would prohibit some hunting, killing and harm and would establish “critical habitat” for the bear, the “species of special concern” listing requires only a management plan in three years, with no guarantee for actual protections.

Canada’s special concern listing for the polar bear was based on a status assessment that failed to address the primary threat to the species, the ongoing and projected loss of its sea-ice habitat in the face of global warming.

“Polar bears in Canada can be saved from extinction but only if the enormous threats they face are taken seriously,” Siegel said. “Wishful thinking is not a successful management strategy.”

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