[Federal Register: February 2, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 21)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 5340-5349]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 18

RIN 1018-AE26

Importation of Polar Bear Trophies From Canada: Addition of 
Populations to the List of Areas Approved for Import

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: This rule announces proposed findings on the import of polar 
bears (Ursus maritimus) taken in sport hunts in the areas formerly 
known as Parry Channel-Baffin Bay and Queen Elizabeth Islands, 
Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, under the Marine Mammal Protection 
Act (MMPA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service summarizes the new 
research data used by Canada to redefine these areas into five 
populations: Queen Elizabeth Islands, Norwegian Bay, Kane Basin, 
Lancaster Sound, and Baffin Bay, and provides a summary of the Nunavut 
Land Claim and the new Flexible Quota Option. The Service proposes to 
find that Lancaster Sound and Norwegian Bay meet the requirements of 
the MMPA and to add them to the list of approved populations in the 
regulations. Further, the Service proposes to defer the decision on the 
remaining three populations, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Baffin Bay, and 
Kane Basin.

DATES: The Service will consider comments and information received by 
March 4, 1998 in formulating its decision on this proposed rule.

ADDRESSES: Comments and information should be sent to: Director, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, c/o Office of

[[Page 5341]]

Management Authority, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 700, Arlington, VA 
22203. Materials received will be available for public inspection by 
appointment from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the 
Office of Management Authority, Room 700. The Service prepared an 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for the final rule published February 18, 
1997 (62 FR 7302), and finds the EA applicable to this proposed rule. A 
copy of the EA may be obtained by writing to this address or by 
telephoning the contact listed below. If substantial new information is 
received on the EA's alternatives and analysis of impacts as a result 
of the public review, a supplemental EA will be prepared.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kenneth Stansell, Office of Management 
Authority, telephone (703) 358-2093; fax (703) 358-2281.

    On February 18, 1997, the Service published in the Federal Register 
(62 FR 7302) the final rule for the import of trophies of personal 
sport-hunted polar bears taken in Canada. The rule established the 
application requirements, permit procedures, issuance criteria, permit 
conditions, and issuance fee for such permits and made legal and 
scientific findings required by the MMPA. Prior to issuing a permit for 
the import of a polar bear trophy, the Service must make a finding that 
the polar bear was legally taken by the applicant, and in consultation 
with the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) and after opportunity for 
public comment, must make the findings listed in section 104(c)(5)(A) 
of the MMPA. The Service made these findings on an aggregate basis to 
be applicable for multiple harvest seasons as follows: (a) the 
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has a sport-hunting 
program that allows the Service to determine prior to import that each 
polar bear was legally taken; (b) the GNWT has a monitored and enforced 
program that is consistent with the purposes of the 1973 International 
Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears (International Agreement); 
(c) the GNWT has a sport-hunting program that is based on 
scientifically sound quotas ensuring the maintenance of the affected 
population stock at a sustainable level for certain populations; and 
(d) the export of sport-hunted trophies from Canada and their 
subsequent import into the United States would be consistent with 
CITES, and would not likely contribute to illegal trade of bear parts. 
In addition, the Service found that the prohibition on the import of 
pregnant and nursing marine mammals in section 102(b) of the MMPA would 
be met under the application requirements, issuance criteria, and 
permit conditions in the regulation.
    The Service provided information in the final rule to show that the 
following polar bear populations met the criteria specified in the 
MMPA: Southern Beaufort Sea, Northern Beaufort Sea, Viscount Melville, 
M'Clintock Channel, and Western Hudson Bay. The Service deferred making 
a decision for other populations: Parry Channel-Baffin Bay, Queen 
Elizabeth Islands, Foxe Basin, Gulf of Boothia, Southern Hudson Bay, 
and Davis Strait. At the same time, the Service announced that upon 
receipt of substantial new scientific and management data, the Service 
would publish a proposal for public comment and consult with the MMC. 
Any population found to meet the criteria would be added to the list of 
approved populations in the regulation at Sec. 18.30(i)(1).
    When the Service proposed the polar bear rulemaking in July 1995 
(60 FR 36382), the Department of Renewable Resources (DRR), GNWT, had 
begun an intensive population inventory of the Parry Channel-Baffin Bay 
area. The Service treated the Parry Channel-Baffin Bay area as a single 
population based on the best available scientific data at that time and 
current management practices by the GNWT. However, the Service 
recognized that forthcoming information would likely show the area to 
be composed of multiple populations. The final rule reflected the 
Service's response to the numerous comments received on the treatment 
of the Parry Channel-Baffin Bay area as a single unit, rather than the 
new data resulting from Canada's ongoing research and management 
changes. To avoid further delay in completing the final rule, the 
Service chose to complete the rulemaking on the proposed rule and to 
publish the new data in a subsequent proposed rule. Thus, the Service 
deferred making a decision for the Parry Channel-Baffin Bay population 
in the final rule. The Service also deferred making a decision on the 
Queen Elizabeth Islands population in the final rule. Although the 
status of the population was stable, the reliability of the data was 
poor. In addition, at that time the NWT shared this population with 
Greenland although the movement of polar bears between the NWT and 
Greenland was thought to be small. It was suggested that Canada would 
eventually manage this area as a sanctuary for polar bears.
    Canada provided information to the Service as their research in the 
Parry Channel-Baffin Bay areas progressed. In August 1995, Environment 
Canada stated in a letter to the Service that current status 
information on the Parry Channel and Baffin Bay areas ``would 
disqualify these populations'', but new additional information could be 
available for review in early 1996. At the 1996 Polar Bear Technical 
Committee (PBTC) meeting the GNWT presented preliminary information 
that four polar bear populations were identified within an area that 
included the former Parry Channel-Baffin Bay and portions of the Queen 
Elizabeth Islands polar bear populations. Based on the preliminary 
data, the GNWT recommended boundary changes and renaming of the Parry 
Channel population as Lancaster Sound, boundary changes for the Baffin 
Bay population, and identification of the new Norwegian Bay and Kane 
Basin populations out of areas of Queen Elizabeth Islands. In July 
1996, the Service received additional information on these areas and 
that research and inventory studies in the areas were ongoing. In 
January 1997 additional information on these areas was obtained at the 
PBTC meeting, including information on new population boundaries (Map 
1) and population estimates, implementation of the Flexible Quota 
Option, and management changes as a result of further implementation of 
the Nunavut Land Claim. Although analysis of the data is ongoing, the 
Service believes there is enough information to reconsider whether 
these populations now meet the MMPA criteria that Canada has a sport-
hunting program based on scientifically sound quotas ensuring the 
maintenance of the affected population stock at a sustainable level.
    Map 1. Boundaries of polar bear populations in Canada. Southern 
Beaufort Sea (SB), Northern Beaufort Sea (NB), Viscount Melville (VM), 
Queen Elizabeth Islands (QE), Norwegian Bay (NW), Kane Basin (KB), 
Lancaster Sound (LS), Baffin Bay (BB), Gulf of Boothia (GB), M'Clintock 
Channel (MC), Foxe Basin (FB), Davis Strait (DS), Western Hudson Bay 
(WH), and Southern Hudson Bay (SH).


[[Page 5342]]



[[Page 5343]]

    The Service has reviewed the new information produced by ongoing 
research and other management actions for the populations now known as 
Lancaster Sound, Norwegian Bay, and Kane Basin, the revised Queen 
Elizabeth Islands, and Baffin Bay. This proposed rule provides new 
information on polar bear boundaries and estimated population size and 
new management considerations resulting from implementation of the 
Flexible Quota Option and the Nunavut Land Claim. Copies of this 
information have been provided to the MMC. The Service intends to 
announce its decision on the proposed findings for these five 
populations after consultation with the MMC and the opportunity for 
public comment. Once made, the findings will be applicable to polar 
bears taken on or after April 30, 1994, and into future sport-hunting 
seasons. These findings would not apply to polar bears sport hunted 
from these populations prior to April 30, 1994 for the following 
    On June 12, 1997, Congress amended the MMPA to ease the criteria 
that need to be met before a permit can be issued to import polar bear 
trophies taken before April 30, 1994 (i.e., pre-Amendment bears). Under 
the new language, the Service can issue an import permit for such 
trophies after: (a) The applicant has provided proof to show that the 
polar bear was legally hunted in Canada and (b) the Service has 
published a notice of the application in the Federal Register for a 30-
day public comment period and collected the permit issuance fee, which 
has been set by regulation at $1,000. These pre-Amendment trophies are 
subject to the inspection, clearance, and tagging procedures previously 
described in the final rule published February 18, 1997 (62 FR 7302). 
Based on the June 12, 1997, amendment, the Service is currently 
accepting and processing applications for permits to import polar bear 
trophies sport hunted prior to April 30, 1994. In the near future, the 
Service plans to propose revision of the regulations in the February 
18, 1997, final rule to clarify that those regulations now apply only 
to polar bear trophies sport hunted on or after April 30, 1994.

Scientific Findings and Summary of Information


    The Service proposes to find that the Norwegian Bay and Lancaster 
Sound populations have sport-hunting programs based on scientifically 
sound quotas ensuring the maintenance of the affected population stock 
at a sustainable level. The Service proposes to continue to defer 
making a finding for the Kane Basin and Baffin Bay populations pending 
the outcome of ongoing management actions between Canada and Greenland 
for the cooperative management of these shared populations. The Service 
also proposes to defer making a finding on the Queen Elizabeth Islands 
population that now contains land only in the far northern part of the 
Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Hunting is not allowed in this area, and 
the population size is unknown at this time.

Summary of Information

    The Service considered the new information in reassessing whether 
the five populations now meet the required finding that there be a 
sport-hunting program based on scientifically sound quotas that ensure 
the maintenance of the affected population stock at a sustainable 
level. The Service considered the overall sport-hunting program for 
each population, including such factors as whether the sport-hunting 
program includes: (a) Reasonable measures to make sure the population 
is managed for sustainability (i.e., monitoring to identify problems, 
ways of correcting problems, etc.); (b) harvest quotas calculated and 
based on scientific principles; (c) a management agreement between the 
representatives of communities that share the population; and (d) 
compliance with quotas and other aspects of the program as agreed to in 
the management agreements or other international agreements.

A. Population Management

    The rationale of the GNWT polar bear management program is that the 
human-caused kill (e.g., harvest, defense, or incidental kill) must 
remain within the sustainable yield, with the anticipation of slow 
growth for any population. This program has several components 
including: (a) Use of scientific studies to determine and monitor 
changes in population size and establish population boundaries; (b) 
involvement of the resource users and incorporation of traditional 
knowledge to enrich and complement scientific studies; (c) harvest data 
collection and a license tracking system; and (d) enforcement measures 
through regulations and management agreements.
    In Canada, management of polar bears has been delegated to the 
Provinces and Territories. However, the Federal Department of 
Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service) maintains an active 
research program and is involved in management of populations that are 
shared between jurisdictions, particularly between Canada and other 
nations. In addition, Native Land Claims have resulted in Co-Management 
Boards for most of Canada's polar bear populations. The PBTC and 
Federal/Provincial Polar Bear Administrative Committee (PBAC) meet 
annually to ensure a coordinated management process between these 
parties (Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) unpublished 
documents on file with the Service). Study of the Parry Channel-Baffin 
Bay area highlights the cooperative and shared management that has come 
to characterize Canada's polar bear program. The GNWT conducted the 
study of this area in cooperation with the Hunters and Trappers 
Associations of several communities, Parks Canada, the University of 
Saskatchewan, and the Greenland Fisheries Institute. Participation by 
the Institute is of relevance since polar bears of the Baffin Bay and 
Kane Basin populations are shared with Greenland and harvested by 
residents of both countries. The results of these studies have been 
shared among participants, representatives of the Wildlife Management 
Boards, and Provincial and Federal polar bear managers at the annual 
PBTC and PBAC meetings as well as at the World Conservation Union 
(IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) meetings which bring together 
specialists from all countries that have polar bears (GNWT).
    The Service noted in the final rule that Canada has established an 
effective management program for polar bear. Independent reviewers have 
echoed these conclusions. In a recent report solicited by the MMC, 
biometrician Dr. J. Ward Testa independently reviewed Canada's polar 
bear management program. He concluded that the GNWT management program 
for polar bears is based upon sound principles of adaptive resource 
management as previously described in the scientific literature, uses 
the best available data and analyses, and implements the adaptive 
formula for sustainable harvest (Testa 1997). The Service's February 
18, 1997, final rule provided additional information on the GNWT 
management program for polar bear including the use of inventory 
studies, population modeling, and peer review.

B. Calculation of Harvest Quotas Based on Population Inventories

    The DRR calculates harvest quotas based upon population boundaries 
delineated from inventories and mark-recapture studies. The methods 
have been described in the February 18, 1997, final rule and the 
scientific literature

[[Page 5344]]

(Bethke et al. 1996). Using satellite telemetry technology, researchers 
place collars on female polar bears and track the movements of the 
collared animals. The data collected is then used to define the 
population boundaries. Collars, either for satellite telemetry or radio 
tracking, cannot be reliably used for adult male polar bears since 
their necks are approximately the same size as the head and collars are 
easily lost. Polar bear researchers are still seeking alternative 
tracking technology suitable for male bears.
    Inventory of the Parry Channel-Baffin Bay area and bordering 
islands of the Queen Elizabeth Islands area was begun in 1991 with the 
use of satellite collars. Additional collars were used in successive 
years through 1995. The number of collars, the areas in which they were 
used, and the methods of analyzing the data is provided in detail in 
the 1997 NWT submission to the PBTC (GNWT 1997).
    As described above, analysis of the data collected from this 
research supports the conclusion that there are five polar bear 
populations in these areas. The GNWT's use of data and management 
considerations to identify population boundaries is consistent with the 
definition of ``population stock'' as used in the MMPA and as described 
in the Service's February 18, 1997, final rule. The GNWT recognizes 
that the boundaries of the polar bear populations are partly determined 
by land mass, sea ice, and open water barriers that bar polar bear 
movement and partly by management considerations. One such management 
consideration has led to a recent change to the Northwest Territory Big 
Game Hunting Regulations. In the past, the take of a bear was counted 
against the quota of the population from which it was removed. In 
recognition of the sometimes overlapping nature of populations which 
are not separated by some physical barrier, current regulations 
establish a 30-km zone on either side of a contiguous boundary between 
two polar bear populations. Practically speaking, what this means for 
hunters is that they can continue to track a polar bear across the 
population boundary and up to 30 km within the adjoining population. 
The take of that bear is then counted against the quota of the 
population from which the hunter's tag was provided. This regulation 
change reflects the description of population units as functional 
management units where immigration and emigration are negligible 
relative to the effects of harvest or defense kills (GNWT 1997).
    A more recent investigative tool for defining population boundaries 
is the study of genetic variation among polar bears. Data obtained from 
such studies suggest that there is a genetic basis to the population 
boundaries (Paetkau et al. 1995). Further work is needed to better 
understand how genetic variability should be interpreted and its 
relation to defining populations.
    The second phase of each population inventory is to estimate 
population numbers using mark-recapture techniques. The DRR mark-
recapture studies are based on the following: (a) Marking of 15 to 30 
percent of the bears in the population; (b) sampling the entire range 
of the population to determine the fraction that are marked and the 
fraction that are unmarked; and (c) aiming for a target 15 percent 
coefficient of variation on the population estimates (GNWT 1997). For 
small populations, such as Kane Basin and Norwegian Bay, the DRR 
recognizes that it can be difficult to obtain a large enough sample 
size needed for the estimates. The alternative for these small 
populations would be to sample in areas where bears are known to 
concentrate. However, this would introduce bias. Instead, priority is 
given to reducing bias by using the same protocol in small as well as 
large areas which requires sampling throughout the entire range of the 
population. Since there are absolute limits to the precision of 
information from small populations that no sampling protocol can 
overcome, a full risk assessment will be done on these populations. A 
new computer program for this purpose has been developed and will be 
made available for peer review at the 1998 Biennial Conference on the 
Biology of Marine Mammals (M.Taylor, personal communication). This is 
an international forum attended by marine mammal researchers from many 
    As described in the Service's February 18, 1997, final rule (62 FR 
7302), three key characteristics of the GNWT calculation of sustainable 
harvest from the population estimates are: (a) Assumption of no density 
effects; (b) emphasis on conservation of female bears through hunting 
at a ratio of two males to one female; and (c) use of pooled best 
estimates for vital rates (e.g., rates of birth and death) for all 
Canadian polar bear populations with the exception of Viscount 
Melville. In his review and evaluation of the procedures used by the 
GNWT to estimate sustainable harvests, Testa (1997) reported that the 3 
percent harvest of the female segment of the polar bear population is 
sustainable and probably conservative, and that the assumptions made 
for calculation of the sustainable harvest are reasonable. Further 
information on the allocation of the sustainable harvest as community 
quotas can be obtained from the Service's February 18, 1997, final 
    The GNWT expects that 1997 will be the final year of mark-recapture 
work needed to estimate population numbers in the Norwegian Bay, 
Lancaster Sound, Kane Basin, and Baffin Bay populations. The last field 
season for the Norwegian Bay, Lancaster Sound, and Kane Basin 
populations was conducted in Spring 1997 while the last Baffin Bay 
field season will be completed in the fall during the open water season 
when polar bears are onshore. Preliminary estimates for these 
populations have been calculated based on the data obtained by the GNWT 
through the Fall 1996 field season. The Service anticipates it will 
receive data from the GNWT on the 1997 Spring and Fall field seasons at 
the 1998 Polar Bear Technical Committee meeting. Table 1 provides 
information based on the GNWT reporting format for each of these 
populations including the population estimate, the total kill 
(excluding natural deaths), percentage of females killed, and the 
calculated sustainable harvest. Based on this information the status is 
expressed as increasing, stable or decreasing represented by the 
symbols ``+'', ``0'', and ``-''. The symbol ``0*'' refers to the recent 
implementation of the Flexible Quota Option in the management program 
as described below.

                                        5-Year average 91/92-   3-Year average 93/94-       Season  95/96           Season  96/97                       
                                                95/96                   95/96         ------------------------------------------------                  
             Pop.                     ------------------------------------------------                                                                  
   Pop.      est.      Reliability                   Sustain-                Sustain-    Kill (% )   Sustain-    Kill (% )   Sustain-    Pop.1, 2 Trend 
                                         Kill (% )     able      Kill (% )     able                    able                    able                     
                                                      harvest                 harvest                 harvest                 harvest                   
NW             100  FAIR.............     4.0(30.0)       4.5     4.7(42.9)       3.5       7(57.1)       2.6       2(0.0)        4.5  0/0/0*/+         
LS            1700  GOOD.............    81.2(24.9)      76.5    81.7(26.0)      76.5      80(26.9)      76.5      77(22.1)      76.5  0*/0*/0*/0       
KB             200  FAIR.............     6.2(37.1)       8.1     6.3(38.1)       7.9       6(35.0)       8.6       5(60.0)       5.0  0/0/0/0*         

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BB            2200  GOOD.............   122.2(35.4)      93.2   120.3(35.0)      94.3     117(34.2)      96.5      57(35.7)      92.4  -/-/-/0          
QE             200  NONE.............     0.0(--)         0.0     0.0(--)         0.0       0(--)         0.0       0(--)         0.0  0/0/0/0          
+ Underharvest.                                                                                                                                         
0 No change, a difference of 3 or less between the kill and the sustainable harvest.                                                                    
0* Population stable because of management changes.                                                                                                     
\2\- Population Trend expressed for 5 yr. avg./ 3 yr. avg./ 95-96 season/ 96-97 season.                                                                 

    As described in the Service's February 18, 1997, final rule, the 
Service considers the use of qualitative terms to report the 
reliability of population estimates to be acceptable. The Service also 
recognizes the use of these population estimates within the present 
context to be valid since they were determined through research using 
scientific methodology.

C. Management Agreements and the Nunavut Land Claim

    Polar bear management in Canada is a shared responsibility 
involving Federal, Territorial, Provincial, and land claim 
participants. Coordination of these parties is the result, in part, of 
PBTC and PBAC meetings as well as management agreements between the 
resource users and the GNWT. These management agreements are an 
intrinsic part of cooperative polar bear management in Canada. In 
Sec. 18.30(i)(1)(iii) the Service recognized management agreements as 
an essential part of making the finding that there is a sport-hunting 
program to ensure the sustainability of the affected polar bear 
    The settlement of native land claims in Canada served as an impetus 
for the development of the management agreements. The Norwegian Bay, 
Lancaster Sound, Kane Basin, and Baffin Bay populations, among others, 
fall within the Nunavut Land Claim signed in 1993. Both this claim and 
the Inuvialuit Land Claim signed in 1984 establish co-management boards 
for cooperative management of wildlife resources, including polar bear 
(GNWT). The respective roles of the GNWT and the Nunavut Wildlife 
Management Board and the Inuvialuit Wildlife Management Advisory 
Council are defined in law. The wildlife management advisory boards are 
regarded as the main instrument of wildlife management action in the 
NWT, although the Minister of the Department of Renewable Resources is 
the ultimate management authority (GNWT). The current approach to polar 
bear management begins with community meetings and concludes with 
Population Management Agreements that are signed by the communities 
that share a population and the Minister of Renewable Resources, 
reviewed by the Native Land Claim Boards, and finally transmitted to 
the Minister of the Department of Renewable Resources as 
recommendations for regulation changes to implement the agreements 
    One effect of the Nunavut Land Claim is the division in 1999 of the 
NWT into the Nunavut Territory and some presently unnamed western 
territory. The transition for this change has already begun with 
restructuring of departments including amalgamation of the DRR and 
others into the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic 
Development (M. Taylor, personal communication). The NWT polar bear 
project has been transferred from Yellowknife, NWT, to Iqaluit, the 
future capital of the Nunavut Territory. The Service views these 
changes as a continuation of a process begun with settlement of the 
Nunavut Land Claim in 1993. Management actions taken to date, including 
development of the management agreements, have been with an eye toward 
establishment of the Nunavut Territory and are a further example of 
Canada's commitment to a responsive management program for polar bear.
    The success of the Canadian management agreements and others, such 
as the Inupiat-Inuvialuit Agreement for the Southern Beaufort Sea polar 
bear population, has led to the acceptance of such agreements as an 
important tool for interjurisdictional polar bear management. At the 
1997 IUCN meeting for polar bear, the PBSG reiterated the need for 
cooperative management of shared populations both as a benefit to polar 
bears and as a requirement of the International Agreement. 
Specifically, the contribution of management agreements was recognized 
and the need for additional agreements called for in a new resolution 
to the International Agreement which concluded that ``the development 
of sound conservation practices for shared populations requires 
systematic cooperation, including use of jointly collected research and 
management information to develop cooperative management agreements'' 
(PBSG 1997).
    The Canadian Government is actively pursuing development of a 
management agreement for polar bear populations shared between Canada 
and Greenland. These shared populations include the Kane Basin, Baffin 
Bay, and Davis Strait polar bear populations. A meeting was held in 
January 1997 to identify management needs and to discuss the potential 
development of a management agreement for these shared populations. The 
following areas were identified as necessary elements of a co-
management agreement: (a) Agreement on the boundaries, population, and 
sustained yield of the three populations; (b) acceptable division of 
the sustained yield; (c) harvest monitoring; (d) a management system to 
ensure the sustained yield is not exceeded; and (e) agreement on other 
harvest practices, such as family groups, protection of dens, etc.
    Representatives of Greenland have clarified that, unlike the 
Inuvialuit-Inupiat agreement for the Southern Beaufort Sea population, 
any management agreement for populations shared with that country would 
need to be government to government rather than user group to user 
group. At this point it was uncertain how Canada would be represented 
given the complex sharing of management responsibilities for polar bear 
within Canada. A committee was formed to examine the options of 
Canadian representation. The options are expected to be discussed at 
future meetings on development of management agreements between Canada 
and Greenland (GNWT).

D. Compliance With Quotas and the Sport-Hunting Program

    As discussed in the February 18, 1997, final rule, the community 
quotas are based on harvest of polar bears at a ratio of two males:one 
female. While this allows for the harvest to be 50 percent higher than 
if polar bears were harvested at a 1:1 ratio, implementation

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of the sex selective harvest has posed problems. For some communities 
where the sex ratio was set as a target of management agreements there 
was ineffective enforcement when the harvest of females exceeded the 
target in some years. For those communities where the sex-selective 
harvest was implemented through regulation, difficulty distinguishing 
between male and female polar bears led to mistakes and inconsistent 
law enforcement action for those mistakes. To respond to these 
problems, the Flexible Quota Option was developed. All communities 
within the four populations of Norwegian Bay, Lancaster Sound, Kane 
Basin, and Baffin Bay have agreed to follow the Flexible Quota Option. 
This change has been incorporated into the respective management 
agreements and, subsequently, into the regulations which implement 
those agreements.
    The premise behind the Flexible Quota Option is that it will allow 
for mistakes in sex identification and for community preferences in 
sex-selective harvesting while keeping the harvest within sustainable 
yield. There are two parts to this system. The first part is a harvest 
tracking system that monitors the number of males and females killed in 
the past 5 years. If the sustained yield was not taken in any one of 
the past 5 years, then the difference between the sustained yield and 
the actual kill is counted as a positive credit. These accrued credits 
can then be used to compensate for an overharvest in a future harvest 
season within a 5-year timespan. If no credits are available (i.e., the 
full sustained yield was taken over the past 5 years or any available 
credits have already been used), then an overharvest can be mitigated 
by quota reductions in future years. Once the overharvest has been 
corrected by a quota reduction, the quota returns to its original 
level. Since community quotas are a shared allocation of the overall 
population quota, a community without positive credits can receive 
credits from one of the other communities hunting from that same polar 
bear population. If there are no credits available or if a community 
chooses not to provide credits to another, then the overharvest is 
mitigated by a quota reduction to the community which experienced the 
    The second part of the Flexible Quota Option is the calculation of 
the quota based on sustainable sex-selective harvesting of one female 
bear for every two males. The GNWT summarizes the system as follows. 
The number of quota tags allocated to a community depends on the 
community's allocation of the sustainable yield of female bears (F) 
from any one population as established through a management agreement, 
the number of female bears killed in the previous year 
(K<INF>t-1</INF>), and the proportion of female bears in the previous 
year's harvest (P<INF>t-1</INF>). The quota for the current year 
(Q<INF>t</INF>) is then calculated as:

Q<INF>t</INF> = (2F-K<INF>t-1</INF>)/ P<INF>t-1</INF>.

The value of (2F-K<INF>t-1</INF>) cannot exceed F, and the value of 
P<INF>t-1</INF> cannot exceed 0.33. If the value of (2F-
K<INF>t-1</INF>) is less than zero, the quota is zero and the 
subsequent year's quota is calculated by designating K<INF>t</INF> as 
the value of -(2F-K<INF>t-1</INF>) (GNWT 1996). Testa (1997) concluded 
that ``This is simply a way to average the quota over two years when a 
village inadvertently exceeds its quota in a given year.'' In this way 
the average take of female polar bears cannot exceed the sustainable 
    Because of the emphasis on conservation of female bears, the sex 
ratio of the overharvest must be taken into consideration when a quota 
reduction is necessary. As a result, the reduction is handled 
differently for male versus female bears. Reductions to the quota as a 
result of an overharvest of males occur only when the maximum number of 
females has also been taken or exceeded. The correction for such an 
overharvest is one male for each male overharvested. A correction is 
not made for an overharvest of male bears if the number of females 
taken is less than their sustained yield. The rationale for this 
decision is that although males were overharvested, females were not. 
As a result, those females not harvested will reproduce and compensate 
for the additional males removed from the population. In contrast, when 
an overharvest of females has occurred, the quota reduction is not 
simply one quota tag for each female overharvested. Instead, the sex 
ratio of the harvest must be considered in determining the necessary 
quota reduction for the following year or subsequent years, if 
necessary (GNWT 1996).
    The management agreements identify the steps to be taken to 
implement the flexible quota system. The DRR reviews the harvest data 
of the previous season and identifies any overharvest. Then the 
community HTO's, Regional Wildlife Boards, Wildlife Officers, and 
Regional Managers develop sustainable alternatives to quota reductions, 
if possible. These could include use of credits from that community 
that experienced the overharvest or the borrowing of credits from 
another community that hunts from the same polar bear population. By 
July 1 of each year the DRR must report the harvest data and quota 
recommendations to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB). The 
NWMB can accept these recommendations or vary them depending on the 
input of the Board and consultation with the communities. They submit 
final recommendations to the Department Minister who must make a final 
decision, taking into consideration the DRR harvest report and NWMB 
recommendations, by August 1 (GNWT).
    The 1996/97 polar bear harvest season was the first in which the 
communities used the Flexible Quota Option. In the first year of 
implementation, all populations were hunted within sustained yield for 
both males and females. Some corrections were made for communities that 
were unable to meet their harvest targets. These corrections included 
use of credits from another community and quota reductions. In 
developing the Flexible Quota Option, the GNWT believed that it would 
be able to accommodate differences in hunting preferences, differences 
in hunting opportunities as a result of weather effects, and will keep 
each population's harvest within sustainable yield (GNWT 1996). 
Although this system of regulating and monitoring the quota is 
considered less conservative than the past method, it has already shown 
itself to be an effective option. These early results suggest the 
system is working as planned.
    As referred to above, there are some less conservative elements to 
the Flexible Quota Option. The first element is the manner in which the 
DRR assigned the initial credit balance. All communities that agreed to 
use the new system entered it with a zero balance of negative credits 
but were allowed to retain their positive credits. These positive 
credits can be used to offset future overharvests. The DRR recognizes 
the inconsistency of this approach but believes that it will not have a 
long term negative effect on the populations and that such an approach 
was necessary to win support for the system. The second element is the 
Flexible Quota Option feature that allows unused quota tags to 
essentially be ``rolled over'' to the following year as a positive 
credit. In the past, unused quota tags were not retained into the 
following year. Although this change could theoretically slow the 
growth of Canadian polar bear populations, the Service believes that 
the flexible quota system is a reasonable alternative for those 
communities that have had difficulty consistently hunting at a 2:1 
ratio. Testa (1997) similarly recognized that the flexible quota system 
was conceptually sound and needed to be

[[Page 5347]]

given a chance to have its wrinkles worked out.

Status of Populations the Service Proposes to Approve

    The Service proposes to approve the Norwegian Bay and Lancaster 
Sound populations as meeting the required findings of section 
104(c)(5)(A)(ii) of the MMPA based on currently available information 
and to add them to the list of approved populations in Sec. 18.30(i).
Norwegian Bay (NW)
    The preliminary population estimate for this new area is 100 with 
fair reliability based on the analysis of data collected to date from 
the inventory and mark-recapture studies. This population was 
identified as being separate from the Queen Elizabeth Islands 
population previously described in the final rule. A harvest quota of 
four bears has been calculated for this population. The quota is 
allocated to the community of Grise Fiord. The community residents of 
Grise Fiord have agreed to the terms of a revised management agreement 
which includes use of the Flexible Quota Option to ensure that future 
harvests are sustainable and all family groups are protected. Although 
the sustainable harvest was decreased over successive seasons due to 
harvest of females in excess of the prescribed 2:1 ratio, no females 
were taken in the 1996/97 season during the first year of the Flexible 
Quota Option.
Lancaster Sound (LS)
    The GNWT reports a preliminary population estimate of 1,700 with 
good reliability. Based on the population estimate, a harvest quota of 
76.5 has been calculated. Three communities, Grise Fiord, Resolute, and 
Arctic Bay, harvest bears from the Lancaster Sound area. All family 
groups are protected in this population. Based on the 1993/94 harvest 
data and the 3- and 5-year averages, the Service pointed out in the 
final rule that the kill in this population exceeded the quota by more 
than 70 percent. The GNWT recalculated previous harvests in the 
Lancaster Sound population based on the separation of the data for the 
former Parry Channel-Baffin Bay area and the new population estimates 
for Lancaster Sound and Baffin Bay. These data do not reveal the extent 
of overharvest previously reported in the final rule. Although this may 
appear somewhat confusing, it does help to show that while there was a 
substantial harvest in excess of the quota in the larger geographic 
area, the Lancaster Sound population was not overharvested and is being 
managed on a sustainable basis.
    Beginning with the 1994/95 season, harvest data for the Lancaster 
Sound and Baffin Bay populations were presented separately. The 
communities are working to avoid overharvests and have signed a new 
management agreement which includes the use of the Flexible Quota 
Option to help ensure compliance with quotas and correct for 
overharvests if they do occur in the future. Data for this population 
averaged over several seasons and for the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons 
demonstrates that females are being conserved (Table 1).
    As described above, under the Flexible Quota Option an overharvest 
of male bears results in a quota reduction only when the harvest of 
female bears has met or exceeded the maximum allowed. The 5-year 
harvest history for the Flexible Quota Option shows the Lancaster Sound 
area had 30 credits for female bears. In contrast, the harvest history 
shows an accumulated debit of 38.5 male bears for the population. The 
Service notes that one of the communities in this population 
predominately harvested male bears, a practice that could become a 
problem. It is unclear whether the predominance of males in the harvest 
was due to hunter preference or to a greater availability of male bears 
in this area. This emphasis on harvesting male bears from this 
population by one community was relieved, however, to a limited extent 
by the predominance of harvesting females by another community.

Status for Populations for Which Scientific and Management Data Are 
Not Presently Available for Making a Decision

    After reviewing the best available scientific and management data 
on the populations addressed below, the Service proposes not to make a 
final decision on whether populations of Kane Basin, Baffin Bay, or 
Queen Elizabeth Islands satisfy the statutory criteria of section 
104(c)(5)(A) of the MMPA. As future scientific and management data 
become available on these populations, the Service will evaluate such 
data to determine whether a proposed rule should be published that 
would add such populations to the approved list in Sec. 18.30(i)(1).
    The NWT shares the Kane Basin, Baffin Bay, and Davis Strait 
populations with Greenland. Greenland does not have an agreement with 
NWT or communities as to how they will manage their portion of the 
populations. The management of polar bears in Greenland rests with the 
Greenland Home Rule Government. There is no limit on the number of 
polar bears taken. Although females with cubs-of-the-year are 
protected, older family groups are harvested. In 1993 Greenland started 
to systematically collect harvest data. In 1994, a harvest 
questionnaire was developed for all species, including polar bears. 
Greenland has experienced difficulties in obtaining complete and 
accurate harvest records, but the collection of data is expected to 
improve as the harvest reporting system becomes better known (GNWT).
    As mentioned above, Greenland and the GNWT have conducted 
cooperative population inventory studies for the past 4 years. The 
brief summary of the January 26, 1997, meeting for the co-management of 
polar bear stocks shared between Greenland and Canada reported that the 
status of polar bears in the shared populations is disturbing. ``It 
appears that the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay populations are being 
depleted by over-harvesting. Additionally, Grise Fiord has identified a 
quota for the Canadian portion of Kane Basin which, if taken, will 
cause this population to decline as well'' (GNWT).
    The Service also proposes to defer making a finding on the Queen 
Elizabeth Islands population. This revised population now contains land 
only in the far northern part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. No 
hunting is allowed in this area and the population size is unknown. 
Canada's plans for this area are unclear at this time.
Kane Basin (KB)
    Like Norwegian Bay this new population was identified as occupying 
an area formerly considered to be part of the Queen Elizabeth Islands 
population. Unlike the Norwegian Bay population, the Kane Basin 
population is shared with Greenland. The population estimate for this 
area is 200. Management agreements for the NWT portion of Kane Basin 
and Baffin Bay populations are in place that include protection of all 
family groups and use of the Flexible Quota Option. During the 1996/97 
harvest season more than 50% of the quota was taken as female bears. As 
a result, under the Flexible Quota Option the quota for this population 
will be reduced to one for the 1997/98 harvest season. As long as the 
1997/98 quota of one bear is not exceeded and no females are taken, the 
overharvest of females in the 1996/97 season will have been compensated 
for and the quota will return to five (M. Taylor, personal 
    The Kane Basin population is currently considered stable but a 
single NWT community, Grise Fiord, has a quota for harvesting from the 

[[Page 5348]]

Basin population. If this occurs, the population is expected to decline 
since Greenland hunters also harvest from this population. Discussions 
of a co-management agreement between Canada and Greenland are expected 
to be conducted concurrently for the Kane Basin, Baffin Bay, and Davis 
Strait populations.
Baffin Bay (BB)
    The preliminary population estimate for this area is 2,200. The 
combined Parry Channel-Baffin Bay population estimate of 2,470 reported 
in the final rule was derived from the 2,000 estimated for Parry 
Channel (now Lancaster Sound) and 470 from northeastern Baffin Bay. In 
spring the polar bears in the Baffin Bay area are distributed 
throughout Baffin Bay and much of the population is unavailable for 
mark-recapture, leading to underestimates of the population size. For 
this reason the mark-recapture work of the most recent inventory study 
has been conducted in the fall, open water season when Baffin Bay polar 
bears are on shore in Canada (GNWT 1997). Fall 1997 is expected to be 
the last field season required to complete the inventory study. The 
harvest data for this population is presented in Table 1 but should be 
considered preliminary pending harvest information from Greenland. The 
communities of Broughton Island, Clyde River, and Pond Inlet that 
harvest from this population have agreed to a revised management 
agreement which includes protection of all family groups and use of the 
Flexible Quota Option.
    As explained above for the Lancaster Sound population, the GNWT has 
re-examined the population status of past years based on the new 
population estimate. Overharvesting is a problem for this shared 
population. Data from Canadian hunts conducted in the 1996/97 harvest 
season show a total kill substantially below the sustainable harvest 
level, and a harvest sex ratio of nearly 2:1. However, as previously 
described, there is currently no management agreement between Canada 
and Greenland for this shared population and there are concerns that 
the population may be declining.
Queen Elizabeth Islands (QE)
    Recent research data led the GNWT to redefine the boundaries of 
this population. The area was divided into three populations: Kane 
Basin, Norwegian Bay, and Queen Elizabeth Islands. The revised Queen 
Elizabeth Islands population is comprised now of land only in the far 
northern part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The population size 
is unknown but it is believed that there are few polar bears in this 
remote area. No hunting is allowed in the area.

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service invites comments on this proposal. The Service will 
take into consideration the comments and any additional information 
received in making a decision on this proposal, and such consideration 
may lead to final findings that differ from this proposal.

Required Determinations

    The Service prepared an EA on the final rule published in the 
Federal Register (62 FR 7302) on February 18, 1997, in accordance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Service anticipates 
this EA is still current but will decide after the close of the comment 
period whether it needs to supplement the EA or use the existing EA. A 
determination will be made at the time of the final decision as to 
whether the proposed rule is a major Federal action significantly 
affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 
Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA.
    This proposed rule was not subject to review by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866. A review under 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) has 
revealed that this rulemaking would not have a significant economic 
effect on a substantial number of small entities, which include 
businesses, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions. The proposal 
will affect a relatively small number of U.S. hunters who have hunted, 
or intend to hunt, polar bear in Canada. Allowing the import of legally 
taken sport trophies, while maintaining the restriction on the sale of 
trophies and related products, will provide direct benefits to 
individual sport hunters and a probable small beneficial effect for 
U.S. outfitters and transportation services as U.S. hunters travel to 
Canada. If each year an estimated 50 U.S. citizens hunted a polar bear 
in Canada at an approximate cost of $21,000, then $1,050,000 would be 
expected to be spent, mostly in Canada. It is expected that the 
majority of taxidermy services will be provided in Canada. Since the 
trophies are for personal use and may not be sold in the United States, 
there are no expected market, price, or competitive effects adverse to 
U.S. business interests.
    The Department of the Interior (Department) has determined that 
these regulations meet the applicable standards provided in Section 
3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988. The Service has determined 
and certified pursuant to the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 
1502 et seq., that this rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 
million or more in any given year on local or State governments or 
private entities.
    The Service has submitted a request for approval to the Office of 
Management and Budget for the collection of information as required by 
the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. The collection of 
information will not be required until it has been approved by OMB and 
the proposal is adopted. The Service will collect information through 
the use of the Service's form 3-200, which was modified pursuant to 50 
CFR 18.30. The Service is collecting the information to evaluate permit 
applications. The likely respondents to this collection will be sport 
hunters who wish to import sport-hunted trophies of polar bears legally 
taken while hunting in Canada. The Service will use the information to 
review permit applications and make decisions, according to criteria 
established in various Federal wildlife conservation statutes and 
regulations, on the issuance or denial of permits. The applicant must 
respond to obtain or retain a permit. A single response is required to 
obtain a benefit. The Service estimates the public reporting burden for 
this collection of information to vary from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours per 
response, with an average of 30 minutes per response, including the 
time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, 
gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing 
the collection of information. The estimated number of likely 
respondents is less than 150, yielding a total annual reporting burden 
of 75 hours or less.

References Cited

Bethke, R., M. Taylor, F. Messier, and S.E. Amstrup. 1996. Population 
delineation of polar bears using satellite collar data. Ecol. Appl. 
GNWT, Department of Renewable Resources. 1996. Report prepared for the 
Polar Bear Technical Committee Meet., no. 25, 12 pp.
GNWT, Department of Resources, Wildlife, and Economic Development. 
1997. Report prepared for the Polar Bear Technical Meet., no. 26, 11 
Paetkau, D., W. Calvert, I. Stirling, and C. Strobeck. 1995. 
Microsatellite analysis of population structure in Canadian polar 
bears. Mol. Ecol. 4:347-354.
PBSG, The World Conservation Union. 1997. Resolutions from the Twelfth

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Working Meet. IUCN/SSC PBSG Feb. 3-7, 1997.
Testa, J.W. 1997. Importation of Polar Bear Trophies from Canada under 
the 1994 Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Report 
prepared for the Marine Mammal Commission, Washington, D.C. 9 pp.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 18

    Administrative practice and procedure, Alaska, Imports, Indians, 
Marine mammals, Oil and gas exploration, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, the Service hereby proposes to amend Part 18 of 
chapter I of Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 18 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

    2. Amend Sec. 18.30 by revising paragraph (i)(1) introductory text 
to read as follows:

Sec. 18.30  Polar bear sport-hunted trophy import permits.

* * * * *
    (i) Findings. * * *
    (1) We have determined that the Northwest Territories, Canada, has 
a monitored and enforced sport-hunting program that meets issuance 
criteria of paragraphs (d)(4) and (5) of this section for the following 
populations: Southern Beaufort Sea, Northern Beaufort Sea, Viscount 
Melville Sound (subject to the lifting of the moratorium in this 
population), Western Hudson Bay, M'Clintock Channel, Lancaster Sound, 
and Norwegian Bay, and that:
* * * * *
    Dated: January 21, 1998.
Donald Barry,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 98-2442 Filed 1-28-98; 4:11 pm]