Circumpolar countries want to make sure the polar bear will survive in a changing Arctic.

Two years from now, Canada will work with Norway, Russia, the U.S. and Greenland on an international plan to protect and research the animals.

First, countries will complete their own management plans.

Officials from the five countries where polar bears live wrapped up a meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Wednesday.

One of the last presentations was from an Iqaluit elder and member of the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board.

Juushua Qanngu recalls a time when Inuit still used dog teams. He told the delegates that the dogs which were fed the most would suffer more and even die during times of famine.

He said dogs fed sparingly fared better. Qanngu says the situation is similar with polar bears.

Traditional knowledge has been a large part of the conference.

"Inuit knowledge is starting to be validated, being used and we are more and more being invited to the bigger discussions on the issues," said Gabriel Nirlungayuk who works on wildlife and environment issues with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Officials from Nunavut and Canada say Canada is a leader in some aspects of polar bear management. For example, it has implemented quota systems for hunters.

Still, Drikus Gissing from the government of Nunavut’s Environment Department says it’s been good to hear what other countries are doing to manage and research polar bears.


Drikus Gissing, with the government of Nunavut, says it's good to hear how other countries are working on polar bear management. (CBC)

"It's important that we hear how they manage it and we could maybe learn from them and they could learn from us," said Gissing.

The countries also committed to working closely together on long-term management.

"What we've talked about in the past day or so is how do we coordinate action internationally for further conservation of the polar bear," said Virginia Poter from the Canadian Wildlife Service.