Wearing a winter coat and toque, with one hand holding a hockey stick and the other firmly gripping the reigns of a trusty polar bear. This is what comes to mind when some around the world imagine a Canadian. While this bizarre image couldn’t be further from the truth (as all Canadians know, the other hand is holding a bottle of maple syrup because a polar bear needs no reigns) it is understandable because we are closely associated with these symbols: winter and the North. Tragically the Great White North is at risk from the effects of climate change and no part of the ridiculous portrait above is more threatened than polar bears.
The earliest major effort to save the polar bears came in 1973 when a group of five arctic countries with polar bear populations, known as the range states, came together to sign the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. This agreement was designed to protect this magnificent animal by focusing on areas that limited human intrusion into existing polar bear habitats. In this effort Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States set an impressive example of successful international conservation.
“These actions by the range states following the 1973 Agreement were very successful in enabling polar bear populations to stabilise or bounce back. But it eventually became clear that a new threat – climate change – was emerging and causing the bears’ habitat to disappear beneath their feet, literally,” shared Dr. Melanie Lancaster, Senior Specialist of Arctic Species with the WWF Arctic Programme. “Since the late 2000s much of the focus for polar bear conservation has shifted to understanding and reducing the impacts of climate change. Today we are seeing summer sea ice disappearing earlier in summer and taking longer to return in the fall, forcing polar bears to stay on land for longer, away from seals, their main food source. Scientists have found that this stress is affecting their ability to have cubs and even to survive in some regions.”
In 2011, building upon their previous success, The
“The Arctic and the Last Ice Area is important to Canadians, but it’s also something that should be protected for the benefit of the entire world due to its unique habitat, species, and the ice’s ability to slow the pace of climate change,” said Ron Soreanu, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for
The Circumpolar Action Plan is a perfect example of what we here at
“While talk about conservation efforts can sometimes sound bleak, I truly think it is a hopeful message,” Dr. Lancaster said. “There is so much we can all do on an individual basis to help support conservation efforts. By being mindful in our everyday lives, reducing our personal carbon footprint and ensuring that our governments are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can make a difference for polar bears and the Arctic.”