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

Smoking materials blamed for fire at downtown Chilliwack apartment

Fire department once again reminding smokers to fully extinguish butts in approved containers

Park and trails consultation sessions kick off on Feb. 24

City staff will be talking about some current parks projects like green gyms for example

Man who stole millions from Seabird Island band sentenced to 4.5 years jail

Stephen MacKinnon sentenced in Chilliwack court for stealing $2.3 million over eight years

Freezing temperatures expected in Lower Mainland

Snowfall warning ends, but surge or icy air to continue

Chilliwack Chiefs take gut punch from Merritt in 5-2 loss

Trying to hold off Langley and Surrey for the Mainland division’s second seed, Chilliwack faltered.

From Langley to PyeongChang: Local student is at the Olympics

Walnut Grove Secondary student Kevin Kim is at the Winter Games to create a multimedia project.

Rules reviewed to keep drug money out of B.C. real estate

Investigator looking at loans as well as casinos, David Eby says

No charges for B.C. Mountie in car wash shooting

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

UPDATE: Man killed in targted Coquitlam shooting identified

IHIT also asking for information about 2018 grey Chrysler 300 on fire near the shooting

VIDEO: B.C. deer caught obeying traffic signs

A herd of deer in Fernie, B.C. is getting attention online after stopping for a stop sign

Petition wants fundraiser dropped for family of man cleared in Boushie’s death

Group says GoFundMe is profiting from the young Indigenous man’s death

Porch lights turn on for Canadian teen behind #BeccaToldMeTo movement

New Brunswick’s Rebecca Schofield had asked her Facebook followers to perform random acts of kindness

Jacob Tremblay talks about playing a boy with facial differences in “Wonder”

It was a long stay in a makeup chair, but it could have been even longer

B.C. files challenge to Alberta wine trade ban

First formal dispute under Canadian Free Trade Agreement

Most Read