A treaty between Native and government representatives of the U.S. and Russia was signed in 2000 due to the need for coordinated management of the shared Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population that inhabits the Chukchi and northern Bering seas. This treaty identified goals to improve polar bear conservation and safeguard the cultural and traditional use of polar bears by Native peoples. For Native peoples of Chukotka this treaty re-establishes their ability to hunt polar bears for subsistence purposes. Prior to this treaty, any hunting of polar bears (including by Native peoples) had been illegal in Russia since 1956. Alaska Natives have supported the right of their Russian neighbors and have long recognized the need to cooperatively manage this population to ensure that polar bears are available for future generations.
Recent implementation of this treaty, which began in 2007, established a joint U.S.-Russia Commission responsible for making management decisions concerning polar bears in this region. The Commission is composed of a Native and federal representative from each country.
At a meeting in June 2010, the Commission decided to place an upper limit on harvest from the Alaska-Chukotka population of 19 female and 39 male (for a total of 58) polar bears per year based on the recommendation of the scientific working group and identified subsistence needs. That harvest limit has been re-3stablished by the Commission each year, and is split evenly between Native peoples of Alaska and Chukotka. The Alaskan share of the harvest is 29 polar bears (9 females).
Commission Meeting Reports
Information related to the Scientific Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Agreement
On November 8, 2016, the Service published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that has two purposes: 1) to solicit public comments on developing and administering a co-management partnership with Alaska Natives for their subsistence use of polar bears in Alaska; and 2) to solicit preliminary ideas about the best way to ensure polar bear take limits established by the Polar Bear Bilateral Commission for the Alaska-Chukotka population (Chukchi Sea) are not exceeded. Because Alaska Native harvest of polar bears has never been federally regulated, we believe it is important to hear from the public, and especially Alaska Natives, on potential management options for this subsistence harvest. The public comment period closed January 9, 2017.