International agreement reached on polar bear protection

Sea ice is melting away under the feet of the polar bear.

The five nations with polar bear populations have committed to a 10-year plan that aims to protect and manage polar bears and their habitat.

The so-called polar bear “range states” – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the U.S. – on September 2 in Ilulissat, Greenland, agreed on what the World Wildlife Fund calls the “first-ever circumpolar action plan” to secure the long-term survival of polar bears in the wild, Nunatsiaq Online reports.

The plan identifies and addresses seven threats that it says currently impact, or are most likely to have an impact, on polar bears and their habitat over the next 10 years: climate change, disease, human-caused mortality, mineral and energy resource exploration and development, contaminants and pollution, shipping and, tourism and related activities.

“Nearly half of the world’s polar bear populations cross national borders, so international cooperation is necessary to ensure polar bears thrive long into the future”, Alexander Shestakov, the Global Arctic Program director for the World Wildlife Fund, said.

The five nations with polar bears populations signed an international agreement on polar bear conservation in 1973, but since then the nature of threats facing the bears have changed. At that time, the largest threat to polar bears was over-hunting, while it now is the results of human activities that are changing the climate.