By Megan Gannon
A bid to ban the international trade of polar bear pelts and other parts was rejected today (March 7) at a major meeting of conservationists in Bangkok.
The proposal was submitted by the United States at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and it would have upgraded the status of polar bears in the CITES Treaty, making international commercial trade in the species illegal. It was shut down with a final vote of 38 in favor, 42 against and 46 abstentions.
"We are obviously disappointed that the CITES membership failed to give greater protection to polar bears by limiting permissible trade in polar bear pelts and other body parts," David J. Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said in a statement. "We will continue to work with our partners to reduce the pressure that trade in polar bear parts puts on this iconic Arctic species, even as we take on the longer term threat that climate change poses to polar bears."
The proposal was backed by Russia but opposed by Canada, Greenland and Norway, all of which have polar bear populations within their borders. Inuit groups in particular voiced strong opposition to the ban, arguing that it would have threatened their livelihoods and that the bears are being hunted responsibly in the Canadian Arctic.
Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. delegation at CITES, said high prices for polar bear hides have driven an increase in hunting and that the ban "would have ensured that commercial trade would not compound the threats of habitat loss that are facing this species." More....