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The Nature and Significance of Polar Bear Conservation Hunting in the Canadian Arctic

Freeman, M. M. R.; Wenzel, G. W.






A cooperative approach is in place in Canadian polar bear management, involving the sharing of scientists' and resource users' knowledge and understandings to achieve sustainable management outcomes over a maj or portion of the species range in Canada. Biologists from governments and universities work closely with their international partners and indigenous hunters in carrying out programs of polar bear research. As mentioned above, this cooperation extends to hunters' routinely collecting required biological samples and data from the polar bears they kill, or from trophy animals taken by visiting hunters. Local hunters inform managers of their concerns about observed changes in the condition of individual bears or bear populations within their hunting territory. This cooperation and sharing continue, even though incorporating this information into management decisions has led to some reductions in local polar bear quotas (Lloyd, 1986; [Derocher] et al., 1998; [Freeman], 2001). Co-management boards, introduced across the Canadian Arctic following the signing of land-claim agreements, appear to provide an equitable and workable institution that encourages sustainable practices for wild species use (Usher, 1997; [Berkes], 1999; Pokiak, F., 2005; however, see Nadasdy, 2003). The international concern that most directly affects the Canadian polar bear conservation hunt is the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which sets requirements for all polar bear trophies imported into the United States. Basing its policy on information provided by Canadian authorities, the United States permits trophy imports from five of the twelve polar bear populations in Nunavut, and from the three populations hunted by outfitters resident in Inuit communities of the Northwest Territories. Examples of requirements set by the MMPA are (1) that a functioning, monitored, and enforced trophy-hunting program exists that is consistent with the international polar bear agreement; (2) that the program is based on scientifically sound quotas, ensuring the hunted population is maintained at a sustainable level; and (3) that for those populations shared between jurisdictions (e.g., Canada and Greenland), an enforceable, science-based management plan is in place (Gissing, 2005). As a result of some polar bear populations' failing to satisfy these MMPA conditions over the past few years, Inuit communities that previously served mainly or exclusively American hunters now have a more international client base. Clyde River, for example, now hosts hunters from Argentina, Finland, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Norway, and Spain. Polar bear trophy hunts in the Canadian Arctic are marketed internationally by wholesalers in southern Canada and the United States, who connect local outfitters in Inuit communities with their prospective clients worldwide. Initially, the community hunters and trappers' organizations acted as the local outfitters, hiring guides and dog teams from local hunters who were licensed by the government to serve as sport-hunting guides (Notzke, 1999). During the last two decades, however, licensed guides in some communities have begun to operate their own outfitting businesses, in some cases also continuing to serve as guides, and in others hiring additional licensed guides to work in their businesses. Despite the growing availability of skilled guides, the demand for trophies exceeds the number of tags that local authorities make available to trophy hunters. Although the number of tags allocated to trophy hunters has increased significantly over the past 30 years (Table 2), further increases may be limited unless the quota itself increases or communities become less reluctant to compromise their subsistence values by constraining the individual hunter's right to hunt bears (Notzke, 1999; Freeman, 2001 ; [Wenzel, G.W.], 2005). However, at the present time, the Nunavut government is proposing to increase the Nunavut polar bear quota for the 2005-06 season (George, 2005a; Minogue, 2005).

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