Countries around the world agree that polar bears are in trouble: They’re considered threatened in the United States, of special concern in Canada, and vulnerable internationally. Yet in much of their icy habitat, it’s perfectly legal to pick up a gun and shoot one.
Since 1963 the estimate is 991 polar bears killed a year. What shocking even more is what kind of animal is targeted. Trophy hunters are always killing the biggest and strongest animal for the record books. But also the Inuit, the local hunters, get paid for bigger skins.
Especially since 2006, the price of skins has increased by 6 or 7 times, so the native hunters are also extremely selective and turning away from subsistence hunting to commercial hunting, targeting the biggest, strongest bears with the best fur quality.
The animals left trying to adapt and survive climate changes – less sea ice, warmer temperatures – are actually less fit, the youngest or oldest and maybe sick. It’s very scary what’s happening and nobody has described it.
90% of hunting internationally is legal and 10% maybe, mainly in Russia, is illegal. But it is legal hunting that is the problem as the claim is that it’s sustainable, but most places in Canada, for instance, have nothing to do with sustainability, it’s just about increasing quotas and killing as many as possible. It’s not good and very shocking to actually see it happening.
We think polar bears are protected or well managed, but it’s actually the opposite. Norway has banned hunting in Svalbard and Russia in some areas but there is still illegal hunting. But in Canada, Greenland, and Alaska there is still hunting.
Aside from trophy hunting There is international trade. In the past 10 years, 70% of all polar bear rugs produced have been exported from Canada to China. One polar skin can reach a price of $90,000 – approximately the same price as one kilogram of rhino horn, or 2.5kg of cocaine.
Importance of polar bears
Polar bears are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Over thousands of years, polar bears have also been an important part of the cultures and economies of Arctic peoples. Polar bears depend on sea ice for their existence and are directly impacted by climate change—serving as an important indicator species.