CITES countries vote against polar bear trade ban

CITES countries vote against polar bear trade ban

12 March 2013

On March 7, a meeting of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted against a proposal to upgrade the status of the polar bear from a species whose trade is merely regulated to one whose trade is banned, said Maria Vorontsova, a member of the Russian delegation and director of IFAW-Russia.


The proposal to change the status of the polar bear, whose worldwide population is estimated at around 21,000, received 38 votes in favour and 42 against. Between 50 and 60 countries abstained. For example, the 28-member European Union, which votes as a bloc, abstained. It proposed introducing polar bear trade quotas instead, which the other countries rejected.


The CITES meeting began in Thailand on March 3 and will last until March 14. The Russian delegation considered the proposal to change the status of the polar bear to be very important. The polar bear is listed in Appendix II of the Convention, which includes species that may become extinct without trade control. Appendix I includes all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade, for which trade is only authorised in exceptional circumstances.


“The proposal to move the polar bear to Appendix I has been rejected. This is sad for us and very bad for the polar bear. Ultimately, no decision has been taken on protecting the polar bear, although the circumstances have only gotten worse over the past three years, and the next conference won’t be held for another three years,” Vorontsova said.


She pointed out that a similar proposal was advanced at the 15th CITES conference in 2010. “Trade in polar bear hides has grown approximately fourfold” over the past three years, she said, adding that prices have reached a historical high in the past 10 years.


“The poaching of polar bears and online trade in their hides have not diminished, while prices have increased,” said Viktor Nikiforov, head of the Bear Patrol Project. “Polar bear hides are mostly sold in Moscow. We must take legislative and practical action to protect the polar bear. The population of Arctic towns must be involved in the fight against poachers.”


Experts are now pinning their hopes on the polar bear summit of countries with polar bear populations, which is to be held in Russia in November 2013.