Range countries agree on plan to conserve polar bears

Range countries agree on plan to conserve polar bears

10 September 2015

A Circumpolar Action Plan (CAP) to protect and manage polar bears and their habitat has been approved by the countries signatory to the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears.


The five polar bear range states – Russia, the United States, Canada, Greenland (the Kingdom of Denmark), and Norway,– met for their sixth meeting in Ilulissat, Greenland, on 1-3 September 2015.


The range states discussed the increasing number of human-polar bear conflicts and reaffirmed their commitment to mitigating them. The shrinking sea-ice habitat is forcing bears to spend more time on dry land, which has increased the risk of these conflicts. The range countries started developing a strategy to prevent them in 2009.


In Ilulissat, the polar bear nations endorsed six recommendations to strengthen international cooperation among law enforcement agencies and improve the clarity of legal trade data based on a commitment they made in 2011 to explore mechanisms to counter the threat of poaching and illegal trade in polar bears and polar bear parts.


They also adopted a 10-year Circumpolar Action Plan (CAP) to conserve polar bears across their range. It is based on each country’s national efforts and will lead to more efficient and effective use of conservation resources. Progress on the CAP will be evaluated and made public every two years.


The CAP identifies seven key threats to the polar bear, of which human-induced climate change and the effects of such changes on the polar bear’s habitat and prey is considered the primary threat. The other threats include human-polar bear conflicts; mineral and energy resource exploration and development; contaminants and pollution caused by shipping; and disease.


The plan’s objectives are to minimise threats to polar bears and their habitat; to communicate to the public, policy makers and legislators around the world the importance of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to polar bear conservation; to ensure the preservation and protection of essential habitat for polar bears; to ensure responsible harvest management systems today that will sustain polar bear subpopulations for future generations; to manage human-bear interactions to ensure human safety and to minimise polar bear injury or mortality; and to ensure that poaching and illegal trade are curtailed.


The next meeting of the range states will be held in 2017 in the United States.