Polar bear export: information note

Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES)

Canada has been a party to CITES since it came into force in 1975. CITES uses a permit system to control international trade of wildlife. Species that are listed under Appendix II of CITES, such as polar bear, require an export permit before a specimen can cross an international border. Decisions on export permits are made on a case-by-case basis, beginning with a verification of the legal harvest and the legal possession of the specimens. The permitting decision also requires advice from the Scientific Authority on whether the export is harmful to the survival of the species in the wild. This advice, called a non-detriment finding (or NDF), considers the best available trade, harvest and status information, including science and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. For certain species that are frequently traded, Canada publishes transparent standing NDF documents that summarize the information that is considered when providing this advice for each export. These documents are updated regularly and the most updated versions are posted on the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) CITES dedicated website.

In the case of polar bear export from Canada, the Scientific Authority at ECCC published a standing NDF document on March 10, 2010 that provided the basis for the advice that export of polar bear from the Baffin Bay management unit was considered detrimental to the survival of the species. This advice was given due to concerns that the harvest was not sustainable in this shared subpopulation with Greenland, and was based on the best available population information at the time. In light of the information in the Standing NDF report, no export permits were issued for bears harvested after March 10, 2010 from the Baffin Bay management unit.

Based on information from a 2016 population study in Baffin Bay, the ECCC Scientific Authority has now updated the standing NDF document for Baffin Bay ECCC concludes that harvest from Baffin Bay can be considered sustainable since July 1, 2013. This corresponds to the date when Canada reduced harvest quotas to the current level, jointly with Greenland, and the population study data were collected.

As a result, the Scientific Authority advises that polar bears from the Baffin Bay management unit legally harvested prior to March 10, 2010 and after July 1, 2013 are considered to have been sustainably harvested.

Q: How do I know which bears harvested from Baffin Bay will be permitted for export?

Effective July 1, 2017, specimens of polar bear that were harvested from the Baffin Bay management unit between March 10, 2010 and June 30, 2013 will continue to be considered as coming from a harvest that is detrimental to the survival of the species. Export of bears from outside this period will require the appropriate supporting documentation to be considered for export.

Q: How do I know if other countries will allow the import of polar bear specimens?

Please note that other member countries of the Convention may have established their own restrictions on the import of Polar Bear. Information on import restrictions imposed by other countries can be obtained by contacting the Management Authority of the importing country. Contact information can be found at the CITES Secretariat internet site.

Q: Once a specimen is acquired / harvested, what do I need for the shipment to be considered for export?

A CITES application form will need to be completed with supporting documentation attached. This supporting documentation can be:

  1. Confirmation of legal harvest (e.g., valid hunting permit, tag, hunter kill report, etc.)
  2. Copy of the Provincial/territorial Wildlife Export Permit, if applicable
  3. Proof of purchase (invoice from Taxidermist, receipt from fur auction, etc.) if applicable.

Q: Who should I contact if I have additional questions about polar bears?

Scientific questions may be addressed to: ec.scientificauthority.ec@canada.ca

Regulatory or Policy questions may be addressed to: ec.cites.ec@canada.ca

ECCC CITES Website

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3

Ph: 1-855-869-8670
Fax: 1-855-869-8671

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