What is the Polar Bear Specialist Group?

Under the umbrella of the IUCN Species Survival Commission two specialist groups work with bears. In September 1965 a scientific meeting was arranged at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. This was the first major scientific gathering with the primary task to discuss conservation measures regarding one species, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus). This forum was three years later officially established as the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG). The Bear Specialist Group (BSG) was established in 1988, in response to conservation concerns for the terrestrial bear species. In 1992 the BSG initiated an Action Plan for Bears of the World, and invited the PBSG to participate by developing the section for polar bears.

Polar bears are treated separately from the other bear species, because the management of polar bears is guided by the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears that was signed in Oslo, Norway in 1973 by the five polar range states (Canada, Denmark, Norway, USA, and the former USSR). The Agreement is the action plan for polar bears.

At the meeting in Fort Collins, USA, in June 2014, the old membership guidelines were developed and updated to a set of Terms of Reference. Also, the maximum number of members was increased from 25 to 35 members, all members being chair-appointed. Since 2009 the group has been serving as the independent advisory group to the Polar Bear Range States. The changes made has been done primarily to ensure and communicate independency from the five polar bear nations.

Members meet every 3-5 years to discuss matters pertaining to research and management of polar bears throughout their range. The last meeting was held in Anchorage, USA, in June 2016. The group invites specialists as felt necessary to address specific research and management issues of specific concern.