JANUARY 17, 2008—Saying a ban on polar bear hunting will hurt their livelihood, Inuit leaders in Canada have denounced efforts by three U.S. environmental groups to list the polar bear as “threatened.”
“The polar bear is a very important subsistence, economic, cultural, conservation, management and rights concern for Inuit in Canada. It’s a complex and multilevel concern,” said Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit of Canada. “But it seems the media, environmental groups and the public are looking at this in overly simplistic black-and-white terms as the demise of the polar bear from climate change and sports hunting.”
Inuit groups argue that hunting polar bears is important culturally and economically.
“Our hunters and guides benefit economically and we are able to continue with our culture, enjoy the benefits of what we use, and ensure that this is done in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said Duane Smith, president of Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada), which represents about 150,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia.
Canada’s Arctic region is home to 13 of the 19 of the world’s polar bear species with roughly half the world’s polar bear population.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to make a decision on the polar bear’s status in February.
U.S. environmental groups say that polar bear habitat is rapidly being destroyed by global warming with hunting further stressing the species.
Environmentalists cite geological models that predict a two-thirds decline in the polar bear population by 2050.