Protecting Polar Bears

Sustainability and Environment
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Graham Godwin-Pearson


"As a nation that leads the way in conservation, it is our duty to do what we can to protect the polar bear. As a Conservative Government, our commitment to the species was explicitly stated in our General Election manifesto, and it is important that we follow this commitment".
- Kevin Foster MP

"We are on the verge of losing one of the world's most important and iconic species. If ever there was a time to act, it is now."
- Graham Godwin-Pearson

The Bow Group today releases its 'Protecting Polar Bears' research paper, calling on the Government to implement its 2015 manifesto commitment for endangered species status, alongside a ban on the international trade in polar bear skins.

The paper argues the case for bringing the plight of the polar bear to the world stage via the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), supporting the species' up-listing to Appendix I status.

Polar bears are threatened on many fronts: hunting, habitat shrinkage, fossil fuel exploration, pollution and climate change. Its long-term survival is looking bleak as it is already at risk of extinction in the wild, with its population expected to decline by a further two-thirds in the next two decades.

The paper's author, Graham Godwin-Pearson, and Kevin Foster MP in a contributing foreword, both believe that assisting and reinforcing conservation of species, habitats and ecosystems are conservative values.

Key Points:

  • The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto made a commitment to press for endangered species status for polar bears and a ban on their skins in international trade
  • The Polar Bear Specialist Group estimates current worldwide population between 20,000 - 25,000, with a risk of extinction
  • The Polar Bear Specialist Group states that up to 200 polar bears are killed in Russia, 663 in Canada and 65 in Alaska annually
  • Polar bears are currently listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), requiring special permits for the export/import of polar bears and their products
  • Up-listing to Appendix I would recognise the species under threat of extinction, thereby banning the trade in polar bears and their body parts
  • Habitat shrinkage due to oil and gas exploration and climate change are leading to further deaths through starvation


The paper reccomends the three following steps to protect the polar bears from extinction:

  1. Taking a lead on the world stage to support an up-listing of polar bears to CITES Appendix I status, working alongside the EU and other global institutions to achieve this
  2. Encouraging an international trade ban in polar bears and their products in the run-up to the next CITES Conference of the Parties
  3. A long-term sustainable economic alternative through ecotourism, just as whale watching has replaced the commercial killing of wales in most countries

The paper's author, Graham Godwin-Pearson, said:

"It is important that we remember our duty to protect and conserve species that are at risk.

This may not always have economic benefits, but it is the moral course, especially when the situation becomes critical, as is the case for the polar bear. Too often, our activities for short-term gains can lead to the loss of part of the natural world that we can never recover.

We live in an enlightened age and there is no excuse for the polar bear to suffer the same fate as the dodo."

Bow Group Research Secretary, Peter Smith, said:

"The loss of the polar bear would be a tragedy of the commons. Graham's commendable paper uses the plight of the polar bear to show how Conservatives can co-operate and take moderate, sensible steps to protect this great creature."

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