The Beacon

Polar Bears to be Considered for International Protection as Migratory Species

A polar bear female (Ursus maritimus) with cubs along the Beaufort Sea (Photo: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons) 

Currently, polar bears are listed as a “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Fortunately, these marine mammals could receive increased protection in a few short months.

Last week, Norway submitted a proposal to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) to expand protective measures for the species. CMS will hold their 11th meeting in Quito, Ecuador in early November, and if the proposal gets approved, polar bears will get additional international protection under CMS Appendix II. In this case, Norway and other nations will have to enter into agreements to restore polar bears to a “favorable conservation status,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Switchboard Blog.

Polar bears are apex predators in the Arctic, typically feasting on seals and roaming the Arctic without any natural predators. But climate change—and the consequential loss in sea ice habitat and foraging grounds—has become their major threat, with populations in the U.S., Norway, and Russia projected to be lost by the end of the century, according to NRDC. Arctic oil exploration, shipping, and pollutant build-up—especially since their diet is rich in fat—also threaten this marine mammal.

Oceana focuses on addressing all of the threats to the Arctic—including climate change, industrial fishing, shipping, pollution, and oil and gas exploration—to best protect marine ecosystems and wildlife, including polar bears. Oceana works with local communities, stakeholders, and scientists to create lasting Arctic protections, and has offices open in several Arctic nations. You can find out more about our efforts to protect the Arctic and polar bears here.

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