Protection Status

Threatened

Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species Act: The polar bear was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act on May 14, 2008. This move officially recognizes that polar bears are threatened with extinction from global warming, which is melting the Arctic sea ice where polar bears hunt for ringed and bearded seals, their primary food source.

Vulnerable

IUCN Red List

IUCN Red List: Vulnerable. In May 2006, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the polar bear to its Red List of the world’s most imperiled animals, predicting a 30% reduction in the polar bear population in the next 45 years.

Appendix II

CITES

CITES: Polar Bears are currently protected under Appendix II, which allows regulated international commercial trade. In August 2009, Defenders of Wildlife was part of a proposal to transfer polar bears to Appendix I, which prohibits all international commercial trade in the listed species.3

A serious blow came to threatened polar bears at the March 2010 CITES meeting, where a U.S. proposal to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts and products was rejected. While the U.S. has already banned exports of polar bear products, hundreds of polar bears are still killed each year in Canada and Greenland, with many ending up as polar bear rugs and other commercial products.

However, there was one bright note for polar bears: the delegates agreed for the first time to formally study the role of climate change in implementing CITES, which could lead to future efforts to safeguard polar bears and other wildlife impacted by global warming.