Polar bear listed as a migratory species by UNEP to restrict oil exploration & extraction
In a press release this afternoon, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) announced it had added polar bears to their list of Appendix II migratory species. “The Polar Bear, the largest apex predator on Earth is affected by climate change that has led to the loss of 2 million m2 of sea ice. The Appendix II listing introduces the global perspective of existing threats to Arctic species stemming from shipping and oil exploration, making it a case for all CMS Parties.“ But why formally list the polar bear as a migratory species when it is protected under several other national and international programs? This is what the original proposal from Norway said about it’s rationale: “There is an urgent need focused, international attention on the impacts of the global community on polar bear habitat and ensuring that seasonal polar bear migrations are as un-impeded as possible, including through the restriction of activities that may involve non-Arctic States, such as petroleum exploration, petroleum extraction and shipping. It is appropriate for CMS to facilitate this attention.” [my bold] These kinds of restrictions are apparently necessary even though polar bears are not currently in any trouble [“Current bear population numbers aren’t really the problem. It is what is going to happen to bears in the future, [Andrew] Derocher says” BBC interview published 7 November 2014]. And apparently, such restrictions are also necessary even though the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has told biologists that the predictive model used to get polar bears in the USA listed as ‘threatened’ in 2008 is lousy science and that unless a much more scientifically plausible assessment is produced by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group by June next year, the 2015 Red List update will not uphold the current status of ‘vulnerable’ (aka ‘threatened’). Can we assume that if the PBSG fails to come up with the numbers it needs to create a model that predicts polar bear populations to decline within the next 30-36 years, the CMS will retract its Appendix II listing as a protected migratory species? I guess we’ll have to wail and see.
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