Canada in middle of pack on polar bear protection: World Wildlife Fund

Leading polar bear experts say Canada needs to do much better than the rating suggests

Canada’s polar bear protection is getting good marks from an international conservation group, but the World Wildlife Fund says the country could better protect important habitat and minimize threats to the iconic predators.

“They largely did a pretty good job of accomplishing what they needed to,” said Brandon Laforest, who helped develop the scorecard.

“They did not do a good job of bringing it up to the next level.”

And one of the country’s leading polar bear experts said Canada needs to do much better than the rating suggests.

“I think they’re being very kind,” said Andrew Derocher of the University of Alberta.

The group issued the scorecard for all five nations with bear populations. They were graded on how well they’ve fulfilled promises made two years ago as part of a 10-year plan to protect polar bears.

Canada — home to two-thirds of the world’s roughly 25,000 bears — is in the middle of the pack, behind Norway but well ahead of Russia.

Canada is praised for communicating the threat of climate change, monitoring populations, managing hunts and trade and incorporating Inuit knowledge.

“We commend them for their commitment,” Laforest said. “Canada is leading the way.”

But there are problems. Canada couldn’t deal with an environmental emergency that could affect the bears, such as an oil or fuel spill from ships.

READ MORE: B.C. residents save 24 megawatt hours during Earth Hour

READ MORE: Swipe right to save the world’s last white rhino

Not enough is known about the High Arctic habitat where the bears are likely to follow the steady retreat of sea ice.

And Laforest said while Canada does a better job than most countries at surveying populations, it isn’t enough in a rapidly changing Arctic.

“When you have decade-old estimates of populations and you’re trying to manage them actively in an actively changing environment, we feel even though Canada allots $1.5 million annually for those surveys, there needs to be a re-evaluation.”

Derocher agreed much of the population information Canada relies on is woefully dated.

“Our inventory frequency, while we have moved to improve that, is still grossly inadequate,” he said. “It might be adequate for harvest management, but in a changing climate it probably is not.

“We’ve got many populations that are coming on 20 years without re-inventory.”

For one population suspected to be in decline, survey results have yet to be released although the fieldwork was completed four years ago.

“It’s a capacity issue — huge areas, lots of demands,” Derocher said.

Three of Canada’s 13 populations are known to be declining. Bears along the west coast of Hudson Bay are down anywhere from 11 to 30 per cent, while those along the Beaufort Sea coast have lost up to half their numbers.

“There was a new aerial survey just done. My understanding was they found so few bears, they may not be able to get an estimate.”

Rapid change in the Arctic means that today’s critical bear habitat is likely to be less so in the future, said Derocher. He said Canada needs to conduct more research in the High Arctic, the so-called Last Ice Area.

“The critical habitat that we want to understand and protect long-term would be those areas in the high latitudes of the Canadian archipelago. And yet, there’s been virtually no work in this area.

“Do we see a movement to set up long-term monitoring to understand that ecosystem? I don’t see a lot of evidence.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ballenas students launch fundraiser for U.S. travel to promote science experiment

Students’ experiment headed for International Space Station

Search is on for parties to build $10.7M Bowser sewage project

Further investigation of land disposal option rejected by RDN board

Parksville council won’t ban single-use plastic bags

Politicians vote 6-1 against proposed bylaw

RDN dealing with high interest in backyard cannabis production

New policy proposed to address challenges with Health Canada licences

Qualicum Beach doles out Community Awards

Jacobson is Citizen of the Year; new mayor Wiese named top newsmaker

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Vehicle smashes through front of furniture store in Nanaimo

No injuries reported in Friday incident

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

One dead, two seriously injured in Hwy 4 crash west of Port Alberni

A man has died following a single-vehicle collision west of Port Alberni… Continue reading

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Most Read