Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, March 6, 2013

Contact:    By phone: Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304
By email or interview in Bangkok: Sarah Uhlemann,         

World Fails to Ban International Trade in Polar Bear Parts

Unsustainable Hunting of Arctic Bears, Already Threatened by Climate Change, Will Continue

BANGKOK, Thailand— Countries today rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts. In refusing the ban, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), now meeting in Thailand, have allowed the destructive polar bear rug trade, primarily through Canada, to continue.

Polar bears
Photo courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

“We’re incredibly disappointed by this shortsighted decision,” said Sarah Uhlemann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity who is attending the CITES conference in Bangkok. “Unless the world moves quickly to combat climate change, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be gone by 2050, and added pressure from unsustainable Canadian hunting will only hasten the extinction of this spectacular animal.”

About 800 polar bears per year are killed by hunters, primarily in the Canadian Arctic, and half of these bears’ skins end up in international trade. Outside Canada the international sale of polar bear parts is largely prohibited by all other polar bear range states, including Russia, Norway, the United States and Greenland.

The price of polar bear skins has skyrocketed in recent years, hitting a record high of more than $12,000 U.S. in 2012. Growing Chinese demand has paralleled an increasingly unsustainable hunt in Canada. The Canadian territory of Nunavut tripled its harvest quota for the most imperiled population of polar bears in 2011 — a move opposed by the Canadian federal government and polar bear experts. Nunavut raised its quota again last year.

The U.S. proposal, strongly backed by Russia, would have listed the polar bear on “Appendix I” of the CITES treaty, ending international commercial trade in the species. Canada led the opposition to the proposal.

In 2012 the Center formally requested that the United States sanction Canada for violating the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. The treaty prohibits polar bear hunting unless conducted under “sound conservation practices.” Sanctions would be issued pursuant to the U.S. “Pelly Amendment,” allowing for import prohibitions against countries that violate wildlife protection treaties.

“The world failed polar bears today,” added Uhlemann. “But the United States has other avenues to pressure Canada to curtail its unsustainable hunt. We urge the Obama administration to act quickly to impose trade sanctions as required by U.S. law.”

Read more about the Center’s campaign to protect polar bears.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back