The hunting of polar bears must be abolished. There is no place left for traditional wildlife exploitation in Arctic regions. Global warming is a reality and it is radically changing the world we live in.
Arctic wildlife is in serious jeopardy. This year harp seals were victims of reduced ice conditions and thousands of newborn seals perished from drowning.
Already corpses of polar bears have been discovered far from land - victims of exhaustion from being forced to swim large distances because of lack of ice.
The opening of the ice is allowing fishing boats to enter arctic regions and Newfoundland fishermen have been reported shooting at polar bears for kicks.
On May 4, 2006, the IUCN Red List was published and it upgrades the polar bear from conservation dependent status to vulnerable.
Global warming computer models predict that summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean could disappear by the end of this century. If that happens, the polar bear and most seal species, including the walrus, could be driven into extinction.
In addition to global warming, marine mammals are also threatened by industrial toxins like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, arsenic and lead. These toxins accumulate in the fat of polar bears and are released into the bloodstream during winter hibernation.
The third factor threatening the polar bears is hunting. The International Polar Bear Treaty, negotiated in the 1970s, allows for 700 polar bears to be killed each year by traditional hunters. This treaty was signed at a time when hunting was the only real threat to polar bears. Now the factors of global warming and toxic pollutants have significantly raised the threat to the survival of these magnificent predators.
Considering this escalated threat level the hunting of bears should be abolished. The Canadian, United States, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian governments along with major petroleum companies should compensate traditional hunters.
"The hunting of the polar bear must be ended now," according to Captain Paul Watson Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "We cannot afford to lose 700 bears a year to hunters if we are going to preserve this species. Yes, we need to address global warming although we should have done that decades ago and we need to address industrial pollutants but with human populations escalating, that is a daunting task."
Defenders of traditional hunting in the Arctic region state that it is not traditional people who are responsible for the threats to the polar bear, so traditional peoples should not have to abandon their life style as a consequence of threats posed by industrial society.
"They may be right," said Captain Watson. "But the survival of a species must take precedence over the survival of a 'traditional practice.' The world is changing radically. The question is not if the hunting of polar bear will be ended - the question is when. The traditional hunting of these bears will not survive the 21st Century. Now is the time for the people of the North to lead by example by trading tradition for conservation."
The polar bear once ranged as far south as New England and was called the White Bear prior to the year 1700. As the white bear was driven further north it became to be known as the Polar bear in relatively recent times.