Tougher Canada action needed on polar bears: greens

Thu May 15, 2008 2:47pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Two prominent green groups on Thursday said Canada should follow the lead of the United States and take action to protect polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice.

Washington said on Wednesday it was listing the bears as a threatened species. Although Canada is home to around two-thirds of the world's 25,000 polar bears, Ottawa has not formally declared them in any kind of danger.

"Canada is lagging behind in its global responsibility to protect wildlife," said Rachel Plotkin, a biodiversity policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation.

An independent Canadian scientific advisory committee recommended in 2005 that Ottawa list polar bears -- which are divided up into 13 distinct populations across the Canadian Arctic -- as a species of special concern.

The then Liberal government asked for a reassessment but the committee said last month it was sticking to its position.

Environment Minister John Baird, part of the Conservative government that took power in 2006, will receive the new report in August.

He indicated on Wednesday he would agree to list bears as a species of special concern and said stronger measures might have to be taken to help the weaker sub-populations.

Listing the polar bear as a species of concern would oblige the government to come up with a management plan to help the population, but would still allow the animals to be hunted.   Continued...