Canada consents to meeting on polar bear hunting

Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:40pm EST
 
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's environment minister agreed on Friday to host a round-table meeting to address what environmentalists charge is overhunting of polar bears in the Arctic region straddling Canada and Greenland.

The World Wildlife Fund has called on Ottawa to take steps to halt the decline of the Baffin Bay sub-population of polar bears. It said their numbers have fallen by 30 percent to just 1,500 animals in 15 years.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice said he will host a gathering of officials from the Canadian government, the northern territory of Nunavut -- which sets quotas for the Inuit hunters -- and conservationists in the next 60 days.

Prentice said a government species-at-risk report shows polar bears are not in imminent danger of extinction. However, conservation issues must be addressed in that region, home to one of 13 sub-populations in Canada, he told reporters at a convention of his Conservative Party in Winnipeg.

The WWF has said it also wants Nunavut to stop issuing hunting permits for the area until Canada and Greenland agree to a new bilateral deal on quotas and the population recovers.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones)