US-Russia commission presents new polar bear statistics

US-Russia commission presents new polar bear statistics

31 July 2018

The tenth meeting of the US-Russia Polar Bear Commission took place in the village of Egvekinot (Chukotka Autonomous Area).


The meeting was held as part of an agreement between the governments of the Russian Federation and the United States on the conservation and management of the Chukotka and Alaska polar bear population.


Scientists have observed a noticeable increase in the number of polar bears in the water areas of the Chukchi Sea. In 2017, 589 bears were recorded on Wrangel Island, which is the highest number in recent times.


Experts roughly estimate the current population at 3,000 based on aerial surveys and satellite migration tracking data.


The commission has determined that the harvest of 80-90 polar bears per year for the two countries (40-45 per country), no more than one-third of them females, would lead to only a moderate risk of reduction in the population and would not permanently hurt the overall number.


Polar bear hunting has been prohibited in the Russian Federation until now.


Recent satellite data on polar bear habitation also show that the eastern biologically-related boundary probably crosses the coast between Icy Cape and the western part of Smith Bay in Alaska. However, this biologically-related boundary may move in the future due to the continued migration of the bears.


The commission decided to develop a strategy for the use of traditional environmental knowledge and to hold a workshop with representatives of indigenous people in attendance.