Manitoba Declares Polar Bear a Threatened Species

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Effective Feb. 7th, polar bears will be recognized as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Conservation Minster Stan Struthers announced.

"We must continue to take action to protect one of our province's most unique species which is clearly being affected by climate change," said Struthers. "This builds on the listing two years ago of the woodland caribou as threatened under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act."

Declaring the polar bear a threatened species will further ensure its protection, along with its habitat on both Crown and privately-owned land, said Struthers. The new listing provides the ability to restrict development near critical habitat along the Hudson Bay coastline in Manitoba.

Significant changes that are impacting polar bears and their surroundings include:

  • · changes in Arctic sea ice breakup which is critical for polar bear survival,
  • · earlier spring breakup and a longer ice-free period on Hudson Bay for the western Hudson Bay sub-population shared between Manitoba and Nunavut,
  • · a 22 per cent decline in the overall western Hudson Bay sub-population to just 935 bears in 2004, and
  • · a steady decline in polar bear hardiness and reduced survival of cubs.

In 2002, the provincial government introduced the Polar Bear Protection Act, which regulates the capture, holding and export of live polar bears. There are also stronger regulations under a new Resource Tourism Operators Act, which established fines and stricter licensing regulations for outfitters and ecotourism operators, some of who work in these sensitive habitats.

The minister also noted Polar Bear International announced in December 2006 it was relocating its world headquarters to Manitoba. The move strengthened co-operative efforts with Partners in the Park to increase education and research on polar bears in the Hudson Bay region.

"Dramatic climate changes to polar bear habitat continue to be researched and documented by scientists from around the world here in Manitoba," Struthers said. "Our government will continue to lead the way in aggressively implementing our climate-change plan to help protect the polar bear and recognize that by ensuring its future health, we are ensuring the well being of all Manitobans."