Proposal to Halt Polar Bear Trade Fails
March 7, 2013
In a stunning decision at the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, the proposal to halt the trade in polar bear parts failed. The hunting and commercial exploitation of polar bears will continue, which means the export of polar bear skins, teeth and paws from Canada will continue unabated.
The United States and Russia argued that climate change and the increasing loss of the Arctic sea ice used by polar bears for hunting was the greatest threat to their survival, and the hunting of bears was an unacceptable additional pressure.
Canada has two-thirds of the world's polar bears and they are the only nation that allows exports. Their position was that there is not enough scientific evidence to show that the bears are in danger of population collapse. The Canadian delegation leader dismissed the U.S. proposal as "based more on emotion than science."
The result was that 38 countries voted in favor of the US proposal, 42 against, and 46 abstained. Every year, about 600 polar bears are killed in Canada, some in traditional hunts by Inuit people and some as trophies for hunters. Half of the bears are exported as skins or other body parts.
Supporters of the ban say they are going to carefully analyze the vote to see if it is possible that it could yet be overturned at the plenary session at the end of the CITES meeting.
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|Photo by John Calambokidis,|
Cascadia Research Collective
Ships Being Rerouted to Save Whales
Federal maritime officials have approved a plan to protect whales in and around San Francisco Bay. Shipping traffic will be rerouted and improved methods of tracking whale locations instituted. The plan was developed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to modify shipping lanes that head north, west and south from the Bay in order to limit their intrusion into areas frequented by endangered blue, humpback and fin whales.
Five whales were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area in 2010, and a dead pregnant blue whale carrying a calf was found on the beach which increased efforts leading to protection from ship strikes. The mortality rate could be much higher as dead whales tend to sink.
The northern shipping lane that runs along the Marin County coast will be narrowed to three nautical miles and extended by 17 miles; it will be turned somewhat so that ships will keep away from Cordell Bank, a known feeding ground. Blue, fin and humpback whales are attracted to Cordell Bank by plentiful krill, a shrimp-like organism that they eat. Narrowing the western lane is intended to shift vessel traffic away from the seabird colony at the Farallon Islands.
The blue whale has been of major concern because the northeast Pacific population of about 2,000 has not grown since commercial whaling ended in 1970 in the United States. The last few years have seen higher than usual ship collisions.
The plan includes a real-time whale monitoring network that would train sailors aboard commercial ships to report when and where they see whales. That information would be sent to other ship captains giving them the option to slow down or take a different route.
This is an important step to prevent ship strikes from killing whales.
Status of Belugas Being Imported
to U.S. from Russia
A few months ago we asked for your help to stop the importation of 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia for public display in aquaria in the U.S. Aquaria include the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia, partnered with three SeaWorld facilities, Mystic Aquarium and Shedd Aquarium.
The belugas are being held at Utrish Research Station in Anapa on the Black Sea, Russia.
They have been there from 2-7 years depending on when they were captured.
We are still awaiting a decision from the Federal Government (NOAA) and will let you know when it is reached.
Last month's Eletter featured the trade in polar bear parts and asked for your help by signing our petition to have the bears added to CITES Appendix 1 which would have meant a ban on international trade. I am disappointed and saddened that this measure failed to receive the required votes. Thank you to everyone who signed our petition addressed
to the Prime Minister of Canada.
Maris Sidenstecker I
Executive Director, Save The Whales
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization