Canada again under international pressure to list polar bears as threatened

There was a story in The Guardian on Friday (November 21) about an issue I covered earlier this year (in January): Canada under international pressure to list polar bears as threatened, so far holds out.

This time, Suzanne Goldenberg’s headline proclaims “Canada’s refusal to protect polar bears comes under scrutiny.

The story is all about a petition filed by the ever-litigious Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to the North American free trade organization, the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC), pdf here. The CEC, it seems, has now agreed to investigate the CBD claims.

At issue here is the fact that Canada hasn’t done exactly what the US has done in terms of enacting formal legislation to protect polar bears. Canada, home to 2/3’s of the worlds polar bears (as well as a relatively large Arctic human population) vs. the USA, with the fewest bears in the world but perhaps the loudest, “we know best” attitude. Canada has not declared polar bears to be a species threatened with extinction but the Center for Biological Diversity not only thinks otherwise but thinks someone should force Canada to change its opinion.

It’s more of the same bullying of governments by environmental groups that we’ve come to expect, aided and abetted by activist polar bear biologists.

That said, I suggest you brace yourselves: it’s only going to get worse. We can expect even more of this over the next few weeks, because an important international polar bear meeting is coming up in early December. I expect that the propaganda, aided by an all-too-willing-media, is going to get intense. 

As I said in January about this CBD petition:

“This petition, presented to the Commission on Environmental Co-operation by the CBD, followed on the heels of the news that Canada’s “Species at Risk Act” (SARA) will continue to list the polar bear as a species of “special concern” but not threatened or endangered (CBC story here).

The original petition was filed in November 2011 and re-issued in October 2012. It seems Canada now has until January 23, 2013 to respond to the Commission, after which an investigation could be launched.”

The government of Canada did indeed respond by the deadline and what we are hearing about now is the initiation of a formal CEC investigation, made to sound scary and ominous by Suzanne Goldenberg, as is her style. A pdf of the CEC decision, including Canada’s response, is here.

And as I said in my January 27th post, the CBD petition seems to have been inspired by the ire of Canadian polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher regarding the process of wildlife protection in his own country. Here are some highlights from my January post [note that “COSEWIC” is the acronym for the Canadian government agency responsible for wildlife conservation]:

Andrew Derocher was apoplectic that the status of polar bears in Canada had not changed since 1991 and that Canada was sticking with a “less threatened conservation status” than the IUCN/SCC Red List (which was made on recommendation of the Polar Bear Specialist Group [PBSG], see previous post here) and the US ESA (Obbard 2010: 18-19).

At the 2009 PBSG meeting Derocher said that the “most significant flaw in the COSEWIC report is the failure to rigorously account for the anticipated effects of climate change on polar bear populations.” He was incensed that the COSEWIC report did not accept without question the dire predictions of Canadian PBSG delegates and or the USGS data used to sway the US listing decision. How dare the Canadians scientists that make up the COSEWIC board make up their own minds, defying the recommendations of PBSG specialists!

Footnote: it looks to me like this incident over the COSEWIC report is what got Derocher’s back up so much he would not invite fellow polar bear biologist and long-time PBSG delegate Mitch Taylor to the 2009 PBSG meeting. See previous posts here and here, and pdf here.”

See all of it here.

Finally, as I mentioned, in early December (3rd to 6th), the five Arctic nations that signed the original 1973 agreement to protect polar bears from commercial and unregulated sport hunting will meet in Moscow to renew their vows.

There will be much increased pressure on the Canada government to adopt US-style “save the polar bear from climate change” legislation, whether or not objective Canadian scientists are convinced that future climate change predicted by computer models is a threat to polar bear survival now.

More on this over the next few weeks. In the meantime, you might want to read this post from December 22, 2012 (if you haven’t seen it), for a behind the scenes look at the how the PBSG biologists dealt with changing the status of polar bears under IUCN (international) rules: “Did the PBSG game the polar bear listing process?”

Obbard, M.E., Theimann, G.W., Peacock, E. and DeBryn, T.D. (eds.) 2010. Polar Bears: Proceedings of the 15th meeting of the Polar Bear Specialists Group IUCN/SSC, 29 June-3 July, 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge UK, IUCN.

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