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March 16, 2010

Overwhelming Majority of Canadians Support CITES Ban on Commercial Trade in Polar Bear Parts

Harper Government is blatantly ignoring Canadian will in trying to defeat proposal

Humane Society International/Canada

MONTREAL – A national poll [PDF] conducted by the Environics Research Group shows 82 percent of Canadians support banning the commercial trade in polar bear parts on the international market under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. When informed of the Canadian government’s plan to oppose this ban, two thirds of those holding an opinion opposed the Canadian government’s decision. The poll, which surveyed more than 2000 Canadians from March 4-10, 2010, has a 95 percent confidence level.

“The overwhelming majority of Canadians want stronger protection for polar bears at CITES,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “In opposing this ban, the Canadian government is acting in direct opposition to the will of Canadians.”

Canada is the only country that allows international commercial sale of hides of polar bears and is the only country that allows polar bear trophy hunting. The polar bear trophy hunting industry appears to have been a factor in Canada’s decision to oppose the ban. However, in fact a CITES Appendix I listing would not stop trophy hunting or the movement of trophies across international borders. In addition, a recent study shows that prior to the 1980s, there was almost no trophy hunting of polar bears in Canada; polar bear trophy hunting accounts for only one tenth of one percent of the economy of Nunavut; nearly two thirds of Inuit communities do not host polar bear trophy hunts regularly; and polar bear trophy hunting revenue accounts for 2 percent or less of the average income of Inuit residents of polar bear trophy hunting communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Listing polar bears on Appendix I would end international commercial trade in polar bear parts, removing a needless pressure on a species already struggling for survival. Climate models predict a complete loss of summer sea ice in about 30 years, and some experts have concluded that polar bears will not survive this loss. Because polar bears are so threatened by climate change, control of international trade, which will have an increasingly greater negative effect on the species as populations decline, is necessary. CITES urgently needs to take appropriate action to address the situation.


  • In 2007, skins and skin pieces representing hundreds of polar bears were traded internationally for commercial purposes.
  • An Appendix I listing would not prohibit hunting of polar bears by First Nations for subsistence or export of polar bear "trophies," contrary to claims made by some stakeholders, but it would ban commercial trade in skins and skin parts.
  • In Canada, the only range state currently exporting polar bear specimens for commercial purposes, more than half of the polar bear populations identified by the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature are declining and/or have been over-exploited.
  • Since entering into force in 1975, CITES has been the only international agreement that regulates international trade in wild species.
  • The treaty has been signed and ratified by 175 nations (parties).
  • Nearly 5,000 species of animals are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.


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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International — one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally. On the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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