Arctic sea ice low points to urgency of Polar Bear Forum



Posted on 16 September 2013  | 
Polar bear
© Geoff York / WWFEnlarge
As Arctic sea approaches its annual low for 2013, the continuing trend of decreased ice extent and volume underscores the need for urgent action to conserve polar bear populations. Polar bears need sea ice for a significant number of months of the year to help them hunt. This year’s summer sea ice low was likely the sixth lowest on record – while the ice extent rebounded somewhat from last year’s record low, it continued the overall downward trend of summer sea ice.

A high-level forum for polar bear conservation, to be held in Moscow this December, is a major opportunity for Arctic countries to secure the future of this ice-dependent species.

“There’s still a great deal we don’t know about polar bears and their habitat – less than half of the world’s populations have been adequately studied,” says Geoff York, WWF polar bear specialist. “The ‘range states’ where polar bears live – Norway, Greenland, Russia, Canada, and the United States – should seize this opportunity to cooperate on research, so we can learn how keep bear populations healthy in a future with less ice.”

Low Arctic ice has become the new normal. The ten lowest sea ice measurements on record have been in the last ten years, and only a small area of summer sea ice is expected to remain by 2040. Because polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform to hunt and raise their young, the conservation decisions made by the range states in the next few decades will determine the future of the species.

“The polar bear states have cooperated successfully before. This year, they celebrate the 40th anniversary of an international agreement that ended overharvesting, and helped polar bear populations to rebound”, says York. “We believe they can do it again.”

WWF is calling on the range states to make 2013 the “Year of the Polar Bear” by committing to meaningful conservation actions at the December forum, including the completion of a global conservation plan for polar bears, vital research on polar bear population status and habitat requirements, and work with Indigenous peoples, the international community, corporations, and organizations to make this work a reality.

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About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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