Polar Bears Betrayed by the European Union

5 Mar 2013

In Doha, Qatar in 2010, Europe played a deciding role in the rejection of the American proposal to add Ursus maritimus to Appendix I. Because Europe voted against it, the proposal failed.

In Bangkok, three years later, the E.U. tries again to block the U.S. proposal. Instead of supporting the U.S. proposal, like Russia, the E.U. proposes keeping the polar bear under Appendix II, which authorises the international trade of polar bears and their parts. This compromise suggested by the E.U. is actually more like the status quo. The E.U. presented its proposal several requirements already expressed by specialists, environmental NGOs and certain range states, claiming it would be best to first understand the state of sub-populations, investigate smuggling networks, and to evaluate the effects of the capture and the hunting of the species.

As a result, the Animals Committee of CITES would examine if the appropriate supplementary measures could help “the long term survival of the polar bears.”

This process of re-examination of the status of polar bears should finish before the 17th plenary meeting of CITES in three years.

isbjornBillefjorden02-RobinDesBois-2013© Oddvar Hagen – Robin des Bois

 The E.U. highlights that of the many threats to the polar bear, the main one remains global warming.

According to Robin des Bois, members of the French Coalition for Polar Bears and environmental NGOs across the world, polar bears are victims of many inseparable threats: chemical contamination, food shortages, habitat degradation, noise pollution, hunting, and international trade.

International trade is not negligible. In Bangkok, the E.U. calls for the compilation of all related information. On that subject, France imported 40 polar bear skulls (bleached in peroxide and in acetone) and 25 polar bear hides in 2011. The average price of a skull, depending on the size is over 650 dollars, while hides have an average price of well over 10,000 dollars.

Yet, faced with the mitigated reactions of other member-states, the determination of the U.S. and Russia, and public opinion critics, the E.U. might still drop their proposal.





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