Russia saves Alaskan polar bears

Russia saves Alaskan polar bears

12 April 2011

Polar bears are listed in Russia's Red Book, and hunting them has been prohibited in this country since 1957.


At the same time, indigenous people in America are allowed by law to hunt polar bears and until recently there were actually no limits on hunting polar bears. According to experts, about 100 polar bears are killed on U.S. territory every year.


Polar bears live in the northern territories of Russia (Chukotka) and the United States (Alaska). Most bears live in Russia – female polar bears give birth to cubs on Wrangel Island.


Russia repeatedly insisted on a ban on the hunting of polar bears in the United States. However, the American side did not agree to reciprocal restrictions on hunting, referring to the protection of the rights of natives.


The International Agreement on Conservation of Polar Bears and Their Habitat signed by five nations (Denmark, Canada, Norway, the USSR (Russia) and the United States) in Oslo in 1973 was the first international document to impose a ban on the commercial hunting of polar bears and trade in their parts and derivatives.


The United States introduced the first restrictions on polar bear hunting by natives after signing in 2000 the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation on the Conservation and Management of the Alaska-Chukotka Polar Bear Population. The agreement established the scientifically confirmed borders of the polar bear habitat, reaffirmed the sides' equal responsibility for preserving the said population and allotted a special role to the natives of Chukotka and Alaska in protecting polar bears.


The agreement states that hunting polar bears for the needs of natives is a sovereign right of every state, and the United States has continued using this right.


The decision of the Russian-American Polar Bear Commission to impose a quota on polar bear hunting by natives in 2010 became a turning point on this issue.


The commission decided to establish a limit on hunting for both sides – 58 bears. This number was established by a research group and points to the limit which will not harm the polar bear population. This figure includes all animals taken illegally (killed by poachers), as well as animals who died under any other circumstances.


The hunting limit provides for two quotas – 29 polar bears for Russia and 29 polar bears for the United States.


Thus, starting on January 1, 2011, Native Americans will not be allowed to kill more than 29 polar bears, not to mention doing this without any control as was the case before 2010.


The Russian government has decided against using its own quota. Any polar bear hunting requires individual permits from the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources because polar bears are listed in Russia's Red Book.


Therefore, being guided by the government's instructions and the current procedure for hunting animals registered in Russia's Red Book, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has not allowed the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources to issue permits for the hunting of polar bears.


As a result of measures taken by the Russian Federation, at least 70 bears fewer will be hunted in the United States every year. Russian experts believe this will be a significant contribution to preserving and increasing the population of these beautiful Arctic animals.


In addition, it is necessary to note that on instructions from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the government of the Chukotka Autonomous Area is currently working out a package of measures on protecting polar bears and countering poaching that provides for coordinated efforts between Chukotka's environmental protection agencies, law enforcement bodies and the local people.