Polar Bears and Sustainability

I say take the guns away from the hunters and make them use knives. That’s sporting
~Sullivan Cromwell, in the Globe and Mail comments

I just read in The Globe and Mail an article by Katherine Harding about Nunavut’s Polar Bear season. I purposely join the discussion to see how people reacted to certain comments and I can say that the topic is quite chilling. The hunters, who are mostly Americans, bring $2.9 million into Nunavut’s economy. The U.S. government may consider to list polar bears as a “threatened” species under its Endangered Species Act. This will affect the Inuit, since we can assume that not many Americans will come to hunt if they cannot take back their trophie.

Each hunter pays about US$20,000A Resolute Bay’s resident and hunter guide, Roger Salluving, stated that “People down south are always upset about this. . . . Polar bears aren’t cute. They are a nuisance. We’ve got so many of them around here,”. He makes about $7,000 per sport hunt. He declared that the hunts are a good opportunity to use his traditional skills because all non-Inuit hunters must be escorted by a native guide.

“Nunavut is home to a large number of the country’s approximately 15,400 polar bears. About 60 per cent of the world’s 22,000 to 25,000 polar bears are located in Northern Canada, including the three territories, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador.  Nearly all of the people who hire them to help guide a polar bear hunt are American. (some tours) charge $27,500 (U.S) for the experience, which helps pay for costs such as the guides, food and gas. The Nunavut government sets an annual quota of how many polar bears can be killed; this year, it is 518”.In Resolute Bay, they received 35 tags, and assigned 20 to sport hunters. Traditional hunters who don’t receive a tag are compensated with around $2,000 usd.

Joining the discussion, I found out that people up there are opposed to traditional tourism as a a replacement to the hunting. I can see that a hunter bringing $20,000 per head is quite good for the economy, but, let’s make some numbers. If a city like Resolute Bay receives only 20 tags, $20,000 apiece, it comes to $400,000 a year.Nunavut Environment Minister Patterk Netser  counters that there are “plenty of bears” in Nunavut and they aren’t in trouble, saying that 11 of the territory’s 12 polar bear populations are stable and increasing. What he fails to see is that, if Nunavut’s bear population is 15,400 (from which 518 -3%- will be killed each year) and they are divided between 12 areas, each area has only 1,284 bears between females, males and cubs. The article fails to explain how the genetic pool of a community of 1,284 is affected when you kill each year 3% of its population.

The population estimates, which ultimately help government officials decide annual kill quotas, are based largely on traditional Inuit knowledge. For starters, the Inuits are the hunters, so they are at arm’s lenght of the matter.“Mr. Salluviniq chuckled when asked about climate change and its possible effect on polar bears. ‘Does it look like climate change out there?’ he said, as he pointed to his ice-covered window. The view is of -40 weather, high snow banks and a brewing spring blizzard”. Well, when they are talking about navigating the Northern Passage year-round, yes, it look like climate change to me.

I am sure that taking $3,000,000 dollars from the Americans is not a venerable part of Inuit’s tradition. I am sure that we can come along, working together, with a way to come up with no with $3, but with  $30 million per year for these areas. In the article’s comments, they mentioned that Japanese tourism comes and goes in one night. I found out that around 50,000 japaneses visit the NorthWest Territories each year. Aren’t they spending more than $60 per person per visit? Certainly one tourist will never spend more than the hunter, but instead of 500 hunters you may end up with 50,000 tourism. The issue is still open for dabate, and tourism is not the only way we can make money north of the 60° parallel. This is a very interesting challenge for us.


4 Responses to Polar Bears and Sustainability

  1. The government officials in Alaska and the Inuit hunters need to wake up. Global warming is happening. The only 2 disagreements about Global Warming seem to be (1) how much, if any, humans play in causing it, and (2) how soon the sea ice will melt causing polar bears to become extinct.

    My feeling is that when we are dealing with the lives of a species, we should tread softly and take no chances because IF we are wrong, we cannot undo the steps we have taken.

    We humans have already made too many other species extinct by our “kill it if it’s in our way” or “kill it for the thrill”. I say it’s time we take the high road and play caretaker of this wonderful planet and protect the species that roam it before we kill them all and ourselves included.

    What is it about human nature that makes some of us want to kill for the hell of it? We are the only animal that kills for sport, then mounts the head of the animal we kill on the wall. What’s up with that?

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