Resolutions from the 14th meeting of the PBSG in Seattle, USA 2005

Res#1-2005: A precautionary approach when setting catch limits in a warming Arctic

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognising that the sea ice is critical to the continued survival of polar bears; and

Recognising that during recent decades the area of the sea ice in the Arctic has declined significantly  as a response to climate warming, and .that ice break-up in many areas is occurring earlier and freeze-up later.

Recognising  that the degradation of the sea ice habitat, which is predicted to continue, is having negative effects on survival rates and abundance of polar bears in western Hudson Bay; and

Noting that in several areas both local hunters and scientists have observed an increased occurrence of polar bears near settlements and outposts and on near-shore sea ice in recent years; and

Noting that increased occurrences may not reflect an increased population size; and

Noting that the Agreement for Conservation of Polar Bears (Article I and II) identifies the right of local hunters to conduct sustainable harvests; and

Noting that based upon local and traditional knowledge, Nunavut (Canada) has increased its quotas for some of its polar bear populations where polar bears must spend several months of the open water period on land surviving on their stored fat reserves; and

Noting that also the catch of polar bears in Greenland near shore has increased substantially; and

Noting that polar bear populations may be seriously threatened by the combined effect of rapid habitat loss and increased exploitation; therefore

Recommends that polar bear harvests can be increased on the basis of local and traditional knowledge only if supported by scientifically collected information. 

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Res#2-2005: An international study of effects of pollution in polar bears

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognising that the polar bear - as an arctic apex predator - is susceptible to the effects of pollutants; and

Recognising that such effect may be exacerbated through habitat changes driven by global warming; and

Recognising the scientific merit in studying such effects in all polar bear subpopulations; and

Recognising that previously a world-wide study - facilitated through the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group - of organochlorine levels was successful; and

Noting that pollution induced histopathological and bone mineral density changes probably occur in East Greenland polar bears, as well as the occurrence of diseases; the group

Recommends Denmark to coordinate a circumpolar study of health effects from pollution on vital organs, skeletal and other systems in polar bear subpopulations.

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Res#3-2005: Status of the Western Hudson Bay (WH) population analysis

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognizing that the largest and best developed scientific database for any polar bear population is the WH  database, and

Recognizing that the current WH mark-recapture population analysis has used multiple standardized methodologies which produced equivalent, estimates, and

Recognizing that the analysis results are consistent with independent population simulation results, and

Recognizing that the data used for these estimates have been carefully checked and validated, and

Noting  that the decline of WH polar bears from approximately 1200 in 1987 to approximately 1100 in 1995, and to less than 950 in 2004 is conclusive,

And accepting that the decline was due to a combination of anthropogenic removals (defence and harvest kills) and reduced demographic rates from climate warming, therefore

Recommends that appropriate management action be taken without delay.

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Res#4-2005: Risks to polar bears from Arctic ship traffic

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognising that the sea ice is critical to the continued survival of polar bears; and

Recognising that during recent decades the area of the sea ice in the Arctic has diminished significantly; and

Recognising that in some areas where polar bears live, ice break up has become significantly earlier due to global warming; and

Recognising that this warming is predicted to continue in the future; and

Recognising that the reduction in extent and thickness of the sea ice has encouraged the development of increased commercial and tourism ship traffic; and

Recognising that increased ship traffic results in increased risks for polar bears from contaminants, bilge dumping, fuel spills, habitat alteration and bear-human encounters; therefore:

Recommends that each jurisdiction take appropriate measures to monitor, regulate and mitigate ship traffic impacts on polar bear subpopulations and habitats.

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Res#5-2005: Wrangle Island nature reserve and other protected areas

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognising the increasing role of Wrangel Island as a refuge for an essential part of the Alaska -Chukotka polar bear population, and

Noting the importance of continuous polar bear research on Wrangel Island as an essential part of Alaska -Chukotka population status assessment, therefore

Recommends that polar bear research on Wrangel Island should continue without time gaps at the level necessary to monitor population status and health, and

Recommends creation of protected nature areas throughout polar bear range to conserve key polar bear habitats, with particular focus on terrestrial summer retreat habitats.

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Res#6-2005: Implementation of the US/Russia bilateral agreement

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group,

Recognizing that Article II of the 1973 Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears  calls for each nation to manage polar bear populations in accordance with sound conservation practices based on the best scientific available data;

Recognizing the United States and Russia’s commitment to the long-term conservation and management of the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population and that on October 16, 2000, both countries signed the Agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on the Conservation and Management of the Alaska-Chukotka Polar Bear Population;

Recognizing that polar bears are a significant resource of the Arctic region and of cultural and economical value to aboriginal peoples that have the right to harvest polar bears;

Recognizing that sound conservation practices for the sustainable harvest of polar bears requires accurate information on the number, sex, age, and location of harvested animals;

Recognizing the lack of a valid population estimate and concern that the current combined legal harvest from Alaska and illegal harvest of polar bears from Russia may exceed the sustainable harvest limits for the Alaska-Chukotka sub-population;

Recognizing the need to coordinate and conduct research on the Alaska-Chukotka sub-population, shared between the United States and Russia, and the need to obtain a scientifically valid population estimate, estimates of survival and recruitment, and to document changes in distribution and habitat use;

Recommends that the United States and Russia immediately enact and enforce the terms of the Agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on the Conservation and Management of the Alaska-Chukotka Polar Bear Population.

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