Despite pressure from the public and scientific community to halt oil drilling in the Arctic, exploratory rigs owned by the Shell Oil Company are preparing to set sail for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
The expansion of oil drilling to the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem is a blunt visual that represents human attitudes toward the obvious evidence of climate change happening all around us. Other species, which don’t enjoy the luxury of artificial habitats, are forced to deal with the consequences of our actions right now. But melting sea ice isn’t the only threat facing endangered animals, like the polar bear, which live in this cold corner of the world
Polar bears are also hunted for their meat and skin, and demand on the global marketplace is growing. That’s why Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and 42 House Democrats today called on Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar to advocate for the ban the international commercial trade of polar bear parts and stronger protections for the bears from trophy hunting.
In the letter, Rep. Markey and his colleagues ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to submit a proposal to transfer polar bears from Appendix II to the more protective Appendix I of the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the next international meeting occurring in March 2013.
“Greater protections for polar bears are needed to strengthen populations so they will have the best chance of survival,” writes Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and his colleagues. “With the polar bear’s plight getting worse over the last two years – record prices for polar bear skins, unsustainable harvest of polar bears in Canada (the only country that still allows the killing of polar bears for international trade), and new evidence of polar bears’ habitat melting away – the case is stronger than ever for securing stronger protections under CITES.”
Read the entire letter here [PDF].
The polar bear’s habitat is the annual sea ice over the continental shelf and inter-island archipelagoes of the Arctic basin. As climate change causes this ice to melt rapidly, the best scientific estimates show polar bear populations declining by two-thirds within the next 40 years. Arctic sea ice is below the average extent this year, and has been rapidly declining for decades as the Arctic has warmed.
Image via Thinkstock
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