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NTI Opposes Vulnerable Polar Bear Designation

NR 06-15 VUL ENG Polar Bear Designation.doc

(May 12, 2006 -Rankin Inlet, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) 2nd Vice-President Raymond Ningeocheak today stated that NTI opposes the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) decision to list polar bears as a vulnerable species on their red list.

The recent designation of polar bears as vulnerable was initiated because of a change in the IUCN’s criteria and categories for their threatened species system, not because of a change in the polar bear population. The IUCN’s previous assessment of polar bears as conservation-dependent no longer exists.

Only one criterion was used to qualify polar bears as vulnerable — a prediction that the global polar bear population will experience a 30 per cent reduction in approximately 45 years because of a decline in the Arctic ice. There is no evidence provided in the reassessment to support the conclusion that polar bear populations will experience a population decline. On the contrary, according to a 2005 Government of Nunavut survey, certain Nunavut polar bear populations, such as the Davis Strait population, appear to be extremely abundant.

When organizations make decisions based on predictions and without fully considering all the facts, it has a seriously negative impact on Inuit. Harvesting polar bears is an important part of our culture. The IUCN’s decision to list these animals as vulnerable just because they’ve changed their definitions and because of what they think might happen five decades from now does not make sense, said Ningeocheak.

Further, the IUCN’s designation does not recognize that one of the best managed and most regulated polar bear management systems in the world is in place in Nunavut.

The polar bear quota system was introduced in 1967 to address conservation concerns when snowmobiles were introduced, and the harvest increased from an annual average of 450 bears to approximately 700 bears. The initial quota was conservatively established at a value of 350 bears in 1967 and was steadily increased to over 500 bears in the early 1980s. The quota was again reduced to 403 bears in 1998, and increased in 2005 to 518 bears.

Nunavut’s quota returned to historical harvest levels after careful scrutiny by scientists, users and wildlife managers. The increase is in accordance with acceptable harvesting levels, and allows harvesters to take bears without the risk of population decline, while still respecting the principles of conservation.

For further information:

Kerry McCluskey
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914 Toll-free: 1-888-646-0006