CITES Secretariat recommends rejecting US proposal to ban polar bear trade

I missed this somehow when I discussed the upcoming (March 3-14) CITES vote on banning polar bear trade (here). But a recent story in the Nunatsiaq News (excerpt below) alerted me to this recommendation by the CITES Secretariat, which rather echoes my December post, “did the PBSG game the polar bear listing process” as well as my last post,  “Ten good reasons not to worry about polar bears”:

Re: Proposal 3 Ursus maritimus (Polar bear) – Transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I
(CoP16 Doc. 7, Annex 2-p. 10 back up here)

Recommendation by the Secretariat

In accordance with the criteria in Annex 1 and the guidelines in Annex 5 of Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP15), the global population of Ursus maritimus does not appear to be small, the area of distribution of this species extends over several million square kilometers and is not restricted and there is insufficient evidence to show that the species has undergone a marked decline in the population size in the wild (when applying the definitions, explanations and guidelines in Annex 5). Whilst the guidelines provide for population declines to be projected by extrapolation to infer likely future values, in this instance such a projection is heavily dependent on estimates of future sea ice coverage which vary widely. An Appendix I listing would not appear to be a measure proportionate to the anticipated risk to the species at this time.

Based on the available information at the time of writing (late January 2013), the Secretariat recommends that this proposal be rejected.


As I noted before, the US has management jurisdiction over the smallest percentage of polar bears worldwide – by current counts (giving the Chukchi a “zero,” as no numbers have been reported), only 2.4% of polar bears (out of the upper estimate of 25,000), live in US territory (they share the Southern Beaufort Sea population with Canada, so the US gets to count only half of them). The percentage will be higher once there is a count for the Chukchi Sea – which they share with Russia – but the US still has the fewest polar bears of all Arctic nations.

**This is the story that ran in the Nunatsiaq News on February 28, 2013, which caught my attention ( “No international ban on polar bear trophies needed: CITES”). Note the comment at the end regarding the EU meeting urging members to support the proposal [my bold, throughout]:

“No international ban on polar bear trophies needed: CITES”

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora says polar bear trade ban not necessary

When the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora meet next month [March 3-14] in Thailand to discuss which of the world’s species need additional protection from international trade, the CITES secretariat is urging them not to back a proposal by the United States to up-list the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I.

CITES Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

A move to up-list polar bears to CITES Appendix I would put polar bears in a category reserved for the world’s most immediately endangered species like tigers, gorillas, jaguars, rhinos and panda bears, which are threatened with extinction.

“Based on the available information at the time of writing (late January 2013), the Secretariat recommends that this proposal [to up-list the polar bear] be rejected,” the CITES secretariat said in a news release.

Governments will use the CITES evaluations and recommendations to make their own decisions about which proposals should be adopted and which rejected during the upcoming meeting, CITES said.

In its decision not to support the recommendation to up-list the polar bear, the CITES secretariat said an Appendix I listing “would not appear to be a measure proportionate to the anticipated risk to the species at this time.”

CITES said the supporting statement from the U.S. “speaks more of potential population declines in the future, rather than declines that have already occurred.”

Polar Bears International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear, has also opposed the U.S. up-listing proposal, saying polar bears not “immediately endangered.”

But earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution which calls for an international trade ban for polar bears and an up-listing at the meeting in Thailand.

The resolution urges the 27 members of the European Union to support “the transfer of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, as proposed by the USA and supported by the Russian Federation.”

Read the full Nunatsiaq News story here

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