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

Number of adults living with parents has doubled since 1995

9 per cent of the adult population living with one or more parent

Victoria Guard Commander leads group of snowmen after ceremony cancelled

Lt.-Cmdr. Michael Irwin wasn’t going to let a bit of snow strip him of his duties

Beauty Day spreads ‘brightness’ at Our Place

Volunteer hairdressers, estheticians, even a tarot card reader took part in the Victoria event

Victoria saw more snowfall this month compared to other major cities

Victoria normally sees about 6 cm of snow in February

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Man in Vancouver Island hotel shooting pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Brandon Tyler Woody, from Victoria, to be sentenced in late March in B.C. Supreme Court

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Most Read