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March 6, 2010

Report: The Economics of Polar Bear Trophy Hunting in Canada

Humane Society International

  • Facing too many threats. ©John Pitcher/iStockphoto

A new joint study, The Economics of Polar Bear Trophy Hunting in Canada [PDF], was released today by Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare. This report comes out just in time for the triennial CITES meeting that begins next week in Doha, Qatar. A coalition of wildlife groups, including HSI and IFAW, are supporting the proposal to transfer the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I at the upcoming meeting. This move would prohibit all international commercial trade in polar bears, including their claws, heads, and hides, and increase monitoring and reporting for trophy imports in major remaining markets.

Answers to arguments

Opponents of this proposal argue that the hunting of polar bears for trophies is economically significant for Canada's Inuit communities; yet this new study says otherwise. Prior to the 1980s, there was almost no polar bear trophy hunting in Canada. The government of the Northwest Territories established programs to promote and develop Inuit-led hunting expeditions. However, this report shows that the income derived from polar bear trophy hunting amounts to only a small fraction (0.1 percent) of Northern Canada's economy. Additionally, only about one third of all Inuit communities actually host annual polar bear hunts. When looking at all 31 Inuit communities, this study found trophy hunting revenues to account for 5 percent or less of the average income of residents, and this does not take into consideration other costs involved with these hunts. This is certainly an overestimation, as not every dollar of revenue is considered profit. It is clear that this industry has economic importance for only a handful of individuals at best, as evidenced in this report. The history and current reality of this trophy hunting industry in Northern Canada is riddled with myths and misconceptions. This new study uses data and factual information to provide a much needed current and accurate analysis of polar bear trophy hunting in Canada.

Time running out

There are presently between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears remaining in the wild, and the number is decreasing. Top polar bear scientists believe that two-thirds of the world's polar bear populations will be lost within 50 years because of habitat loss due to climate change. This threat is only being compounded with the threats faced from trophy hunting and international trade. The Economics of Polar Bear Trophy Hunting in Canada clearly illustrates that trophy hunting of polar bears is not economically significant enough to warrant its continued allowal, especially when the species in question is already threatened with extinction.

No country wants to be known as the one that put the last nail in the coffin of the polar bear. We implore CITES member countries to eliminate the threat that international commercial trade poses to this rapidly declining species.

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