Reuters, “Polar Bear, Bluefin Tuna Bans Rejected”, by Deborah Zabarenko

This is nuts and bolts policy considerations that even make a good conservationist eyes glaze over but it is interesting reading that shows climate change looms large in the future of polar bears.

Proposed international trade bans on polar bears and Atlantic bluefin tuna failed to pass on Thursday at a 175-nation meeting aimed at protecting endangered species.

The United States favored both bans and was disappointed in the vote, but held out hope for passage of a resolution that would make climate change a factor in future decisions by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES.

The meeting of CITES in Doha, Qatar, will consider the climate change resolution along with trade protection for about 40 species — including sharks, coral and elephants — during its two-week conference ending on March 25.

Polar bears are under pressure from the melting of their icy Arctic habitat, and are listed by the United States as a threatened species for that reason. The primary exporter of polar bears is Canada, which has recently scaled back the number of hunting permits for the bear.

While CITES uses trade restrictions to protect species at risk, Tom Strickland, assistant U.S. Interior secretary, said that climate change will have to be taken into account and that polar bears are the first species to need this consideration.

“The polar bear was the first canary in the coal mine,” Strickland said of the climate change impact on the animal.

“I think we’re going to find at every CITES meeting from here on out that we’ll be looking at species and their vulnerability in terms of the effect that climate change has had on them, whether it’s drought or rising sea levels” or other ecosystem changes, he said.


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