November 10, 2011 (Ottawa) – Nature Canada expressed support for the Government of Canada’s action today after Environment Minister Peter Kent declared the Polar Bear a species of special concern under the Species At Risk Act.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we are pleased the Government of Canada has acted to recognize the perilous condition of Canada’s Polar Bear population by listing it under the Species at Risk Act,” said Jean Langlois, endangered wildlife spokesperson for Nature Canada. “Listing the polar bear, coupled with action on climate change, are necessary to save one of Canada’s most iconic species.”
Today’s listing in law officially recognises the at-risk status which the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has assigned to the polar bear since 1991. This important milestone means that, by law, a plan must be devised within three years to prevent the species from becoming endangered or threatened.
During the public comment period for the proposal to list the Polar Bear as a species of special concern, 99% of the comments received by the government supported the proposal. The vast majority of comments called for official designation under SARA and fast action on climate change.
“Nearly 63,000 Nature Canada supporters asked the federal government to take action for polar bears,” said Jean Langlois of Nature Canada. “We have advocated three things: List the polar bear in law, complete the required management plan ahead of the three-year legal deadline, and take action on climate change to protect polar bear habitat. Today we have one out of three.”
In documents accompanying the cabinet decision to list the polar bear, the government indicates that the management plan will be completed “as quickly as possible”.
There are approximately 15,000 polar bears in Canada, accounting for 60 per cent of the world's polar bear population, according to federal estimates. Dramatic changes caused by global warming are taking place in the Arctic, melting the polar ice caps and robbing the bears of the ice floes they need to hunt prey. If the Arctic ice cap continues to melt sooner and form later, Polar Bears will become too thin to reproduce and many scientists predict they will become extinct by the end of this century.
Nature Canada urges the federal government to take fast action on climate change to prevent the extinction of this spectacular specie, and strongly recommends that a management plan – mandated by law – be completed in advance of the three-year deadline.
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