Investing in polar bear conservation, protection and science
Environment Canada is playing a key role in the conservation of Canadian polar bear populations - a responsibility that we share with the provinces and territories, and regional wildlife management boards.
Coordination among the provinces, territories, wildlife management boards and the federal government is carried out through the Polar Bear Administrative Committee, supported by the work of the Polar Bear Technical Committee.
Environment Canada’s domestic actions include:
- Participating on the national Polar Bear Administrative Committee - the Committee takes the technical advice of the Polar Bear Technical Committee and makes coordinated decisions on the management of polar bears in Canada, and ensures that Canada fulfills its obligations as party to the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears (1973)
- Administering Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) to prevent wildlife from becoming extinct in Canada, and working with COSEWIC to that end.
- Establishing Protected Areas
- Advising on harvest management
- Human-bear Interactions
- Hosting the National Polar Bear Roundtable
- Regulating the import and export of live polar bears and polar bear hides and trophies through the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA), a domestic legislation that implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
There are an estimated 20 000 to 25 000 polar bears worldwide. Canada is home to approximately 16 000 polar bears, while the rest of the population is found in Russia, Greenland, Norway and the United States (in Alaska).
Environment Canada is working with its international partners, including NGO’s, to coordinate our efforts in polar bear conservation. Our international actions include:
- Meeting international obligations under:
- Collaborating with the other Polar Bear Range States on conservation
- Signing bilateral agreements on the management of polar bears:
- US-Canada Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
- Greenland-Canada Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Environment Canada scientists are members of the IUCN’s Polar Bear Specialist Group, who compile scientific knowledge and give independent advice to decision-makers and management authorities.
Environment Canada is combining science, experience and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to form the basis for our research. The inclusion of Traditional Knowledge helps to provide information on polar bear abundances, movements, behaviours, and provides valuable long term perspective on changes in the population. This approach is unique, as Canada is the only country that considers Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in the management and conservation of polar bear.
Cooperative research is often undertaken where the project is of interest to several jurisdictions, including the United States (Alaska), Denmark (Greenland), and Norway. Some research projects conducted by university researchers are coordinated with government scientists.
Other projects are supported by funds from wildlife management boards established by the land claims process, by independent foundations, and through grants to graduate students who are co-supervised by government and university researchers.
Current research initiatives by Environment Canada include:
- Impacts of climate change
Long-term ongoing research on the ecology, population dynamics, and status of polar bears in relation to environmental change
- Impacts of oil and gas development
Monitoring of polar bear denning activity in the Mackenzie Delta in relation to proposed resource development
- Development of monitoring techniques
As a member of the Polar Bear Technical Committee, Environment Canada is participating in discussions of the development of alternative monitoring techniques for polar bears
- Delineation of subpopulations
As a member of the Polar Bear Technical Committee, Environment Canada is participating in discussions of techniques to re-assess and delineate polar bear sub-populations
- Assessments of population status
Supporting of ongoing efforts to monitor status and trends of polar bear populations and is actively engaged in status assessments at the national and international level
- Traditional knowledge
EC recognizes that polar bears play an important role in the socio-economical and cultural well being of aboriginal peoples and further recognizes that TK, in concert with western science, should be used in polar bear management decisions
- Link to S&T Experts page (ex. Nick Lunn)
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