Should polar bears be banned from international trade?

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Today we look at the case being made -- mainly by the U.S. and Russia -- for an international ban on the trade of polar bear pelts. And the counter case, being made by Canada's Inuit, that the polar bear hunt is crucially important to their livelihood.



Should polar bears be banned from international trade?

In the 1980s, wealthy Europeans and Americans were frequent clients for Inuit hunting tours. A single hunter would pay up to fifteen thousand dollars to shoot a polar bear or other big game in Canada's arctic.

And another lucrative venture emerged at that time ... the market for polar bear fur. Canada is still the only country legally allowed to market polar bear fur internationally. But that trade took a hit four years ago because of changing policies in the U.S.

The United States is now pushing an international effort to protect polar bears. This March, nations belonging to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will meet to consider adding new animals to the convention's list of endangered species. The proposed new additions include Freshwater sawfish, the West African manatee and Polar Bears.

If polar bears are added to that list, it would mean an end to the lucrative, Canadian-only business of selling polar bear pelts internationally. Andrew Derocher is a professor of biology at the University of Alberta. He specializes in polar bears and tracks their numbers. We aired a clip.

Only northern Aboriginal people are permitted to hunt the white giants. And so, the Inuit Community is paying close attention to the current effort to regulate the animals internationally.

Andrew Wetzler is a major supporter of that effort. He is the director of the Land & Wildlife Program at the Natural Resource Defence Council. He joined us from Chicago.

Terry Audla is the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami -- Canada's national Inuit association. Terry has been following this carefully and recently came back from a meeting in Brussels to make an appeal to the EU not to vote for the addition of polar bears to this international endangered list. He says doing that would threaten the very livelihood of Canada's northern people. He joined us from Ottawa.

This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica deMello, Hassan Santur and Naheed Santur.


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