The first ever circumpolar action plan to protect polar bears was released yesterday during the Polar Bear Range States meeting in Ilulissat, Greenland. The five polar bear range states – Canada, Kingdom of Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States – have committed to a 10-year plan that aims to secure the long-term survival of polar bears in the wild.The plan identifies seven key threats to the health and diversity of polar subpopulations across the Arctic, and includes climate change as the number one threat to the species’ survival.
“Polar bears are dependent on sea ice to hunt, breed and travel,” says WWF-Canada President and CEO David Miller. “The loss of sea ice due to climate change is affecting the survival of many Arctic species, including polar bears and their primary food source: ringed seals. Co-operation between states is crucial to slowing the effects of climate change, and WWF-Canada is pleased that a circumpolar action plan to protect this iconic Arctic species is now in place.”
International collaboration is necessary to ensuring polar bears thrive long into the future. Nearly half of the world’s polar bear populations cross national borders. Nations within and outside the Arctic contribute to the loss of polar bear habitat through carbon emissions or direct industrial and market impacts. Recent research suggests that by 2050, two-thirds of polar bears will be lost.
“It is time for Canada to do its part to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by ending its reliance on fossil fuels, and turning our attention to renewable energies,” says Miller. “Not only will this slow the melting of sea ice crucial to the polar bear’s survival, it will help slow the effects of climate change which have touched every aspect of life in Canada’s North.”