CITES Fails Polar Bears, Rejects Commercial Trade Ban

Despite polar bears’ threatened status and questionable future, the 178 member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) rejected a proposal to ban the commercial trade in polar bear parts this week.

There are currently an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, found can be found in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway, with two-thirds of the total population residing in Canada – the only country that allows polar bears to being legally hunted for their pelts, paws, skulls and teeth, among other parts.

An estimated 800 polar bears are killed by hunters every year, with about half of these bears’ skins winding up in international trade as prices for them continue to rise. Each year, an average of 3,200 items made from polar bears, with their hides selling for an average of $2,000 to $5,000, while maximum hide prices have topped $12,000, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The U.S., along with strong support from the Russian Federation, proposed uplisting polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES — the highest level of protection a species can get — which would have ended commercial trade.

Unfortunately for polar bears, the proposal didn’t get enough votes to move forward and was rejected by a vote of 42 to 38, with 46 abstentions.

Some who opposed the proposal believe that climate change is a much larger threat to polar bears than commercial trade. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest point last September, which was the lowest sea ice extent since 1979. That data is compounded by the belief that that current sea ice models may only be able to offer conservative forecasts and underestimate the rate and level of loss in the future.

“We reached out to our CITES counterparts in many other nations to show that the science supported an Appendix-I listing. Unfortunately, politics seem to have overtaken science,” said Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. delegation.

Canada maintains that international trade is not a threat to polar bears and that it has carefully tailored its hunting quotas to maintain healthy populations. However,  conservationists pointed out that the Canadian territory of Nunavut tripled its harvest quota for the most imperiled population of polar bears in 2011 and raised it again last year, according to the LA Times.

The USFWS argued that limiting commercial trade would have addressed a source of non-climate related stress for polar bears that would aid in their recovery and cites numbers that indicate that while some populations are stable or increasing, more than a dozen are either declining or haven’t been checked in decades.

“We’re incredibly disappointed by this shortsighted decision,” Sarah Uhlemann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity who is attending the CITES conference said in a statement. “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.”


Related Stories:

Polar Bears Win After Alaska Tries to Delist Them

Support a Commercial Trade on Polar Bear Parts

U.S. Steps Up to Help Polar Bears


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Oh Lay Hoon
Oh Lay Hoon5 years ago

Polar bears should be rightfully protected by CITES!
Sacrificing the livelihood of polar bears in the name of politics, it really makes us sick and tired of hearing the same kind of empty promises the governments has always been taking in hand to give the citizens a better life! They should pay more attention to other serious matters happening on this Earth too!
Disgustingly sick!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago


Waheeda S.
Waheeda S5 years ago

I'm ashamed that this ban didn't happen. :(

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright5 years ago

CITES had the opportunity to do the right thing and chose not to. I wish I had an answer to Robin T's question........some humans just don't give a $h!t about anyone or anything else but themselves.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Alicia, for Sharing this!

Nuno Moreiras
Nuno Moreiras5 years ago

politics make me sick to my stomach...

it's pretty obvious most are looking for no other interests than their own. shame on you!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

"We do not have 'impeachment' as an option"

Canadians on the whole have been degraded and enslaved down to a point where they have a time honored tradition of sucking up to and worshiping their criminal, bloated government, with all its useless "ministers", "premiers", "keepers of the royal toilets", etc. despite the fact that the nightmarish horrors staffing their government are bona fide global terrorists, in the same category as the worst criminals.

No Harper shouldn't be "impeached" since you whine about such things being "impossible in Canada", he should be taken down by a military swat team and imprisoned for the rest of his criminal life, if not executed for his crimes. Psychotic Harper and his thugs are not only laying waste to Canada which is a crime in itself, they're a threat to the future of the entire earth. At last a use has been found for drones, instead of murdering children in foreign countries, they should be used on the evil thugs in Ottawa who are the ones that richly deserve a drone strike.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B5 years ago

Disgusting that this ban wasn't enforced. Alex H - well said - agree with you 100%. I cannot believe the Canadian government have such disregard for it's wildlife. I have boycotted visiting Canada now for many years and will continue to do so. My tourist dollars will not support your cruel practices, Canadian government!!!!

Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone5 years ago

Disgusting and stupid