This didn’t get much media attention, but it is a worthy act: to close the loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that still allows hunters to import and sell the heads and hides of polar bears. From MediaNewswire.com:
Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved an amendment to the FY 2008 Interior Appropriations bill to protect polar bears in the Arctic by blocking American trophy hunters from importing their heads and hides. The Committee approved the amendment, offered by Senator Jack Reed ( D-R.I. ), by voice vote.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed in 1972, generally prohibits the import of products from marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals, and polar bears. But in 1994, a loophole was created to allow American trophy hunters to bring home polar bear heads and hides from Canada. Over the last decade, American trophy hunters received more than 800 permits to import polar bear trophies.
“The polar bear has become the iconic species for the devastating effects of global warming,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “It just makes no sense to allow Americans to shoot and import polar bears when these animals are facing so many tangible threats to their very existence.”
The Safari Club International gives out a “Bears of the World” hunting achievement award to individuals who shoot four of the eight species of bears in the world, and that awards program drives competitive killing of polar bears in the Arctic.
The HSUS expressed its thanks to Senator Jack Reed for leading this important effort, and to Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd ( D-W.V. ) and Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein ( D-Calif. ) for their strong support.
“Polar bears are rapidly becoming an endangered species. It is illegal to hunt these bears for sport in the United States. Trophy hunters shouldn’t be able to skirt the spirit of U.S. law by killing polar bears abroad and bringing their heads back across the border to America,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment. “This amendment will ensure that the United States shuts down this practice and prevents the killing of these animals for their heads.”
The Reed Amendment accomplishes a similar goal as the Polar Bear Protection Act ï¿½ S. 1406 by Senators John Kerry ( D-Mass. ) and Olympia Snowe ( R-Maine ), and H.R. 2327 by Representatives Jay Inslee ( D-Wash. ) and Frank LoBiondo ( R-N.J. ) ï¿½ which would permanently close the polar bear trophy hunting loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The HSUS, Defenders of Wildlife, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other humane and conservation groups back the legislation and are grateful to these legislative leaders.
“With polar bears facing clear threats presented by climate change, the U.S. should not be funding unnecessary trophy hunting of this charismatic species,” said Cindy Milburn, acting director of IFAW, DC. “IFAW applauds the committee and Senator Reed for taking steps to provide polar bears with much needed protection.”
Scientists estimate there are 21,500-25,000 polar bears in the Arctic ï¿½ more than half are in Canada and most of these are in the territory of Nunavut. Throughout their range, polar bears currently face unprecedented threats from global climate change, environmental degradation, and hunting for subsistence and sport.
In 2005, the IUCN ( World Conservation Union ) uplisted the polar bear on its Red List from a species of “least concern” to “vulnerable” for the first time. The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group has announced that polar bear populations could drop 30 percent in the coming 35ï¿½50 years and that polar bears may disappear from most of their range within 100 years.
Today trophy hunting of polar bears in the U.S. is banned, and only Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt small numbers of bears for subsistence. Once sport hunting was prohibited in the U.S., some populations began to recover.