No changes needed to way polar bears listed as species at risk: committee
The scientific committee that advises the federal government on species at risk in Canada does not agree with an international conservation group's call for changes to the way polar bears are listed.
The World Wildlife Fund said earlier this week that Canada should not assign polar bears one listing, but instead should be listed according to the subpopulation they belong to and the threats they face in their location.
Last year, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended that the polar bear be listed as a species of special concern across its Canadian range.
"What COSEWIC did do is it acknowledged that some populations were doing worse than other populations," COSEWIC chairman Jeff Hutchings told CBC News on Thursday.
"So ideally, if and when the species does get included on Canada's national legal list, that the management plan that would be required under [the federal Species at Risk Act] would be such that it would recognize and acknowledge these differences amongst the different polar bear units."
The polar bear has been a species of special concern — one step below threatened and two below endangered — since 1991. The committee's recommendation last year to retain that listing has to be approved by the federal government.
Environment Canada has been touring communities across Canada's North to gather input on COSEWIC's recommendation.
Nunavut Tunngavik, the territory's Inuit land-claims organization, also disagreed with the WWF's call for separate listings for different polar bear subpopulations.
Wildlife director Gabriel Nirlungayuk said polar bears move around, past their subpopulation's boundaries.
"I think it would be remiss if it was listed 13 populations [and] one is doing OK, one is not doing OK, when in fact these polar bears have been going back and forth," he said.
Nirlungayuk said it remains to be seen whether polar bears should be listed as a species at risk, since Inuit in Nunavut have reported seeing more bears in some areas.
However, he added, the special concern listing does not appear to have put any extra restrictions on Inuit hunters.