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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

Making Sure Trade Doesn’t Hurt the Polar Bear

My family goes to the beach together every summer, and several years ago, my middle brother's wife was yelling at her teenage son for doing what teenage sons do, staying in the shower for about 40 minutes.  After several episodes of yelling at him, she just screamed, "Matthew, polar bears are swimming in the Arctic because of you!"

Polar bears are in trouble, and not just because teenage boys are taking long, hot showers.

polar bearsA U.S. proposal would put the polar bear in Appendix I of CITES, which provides the most protection for species. Credit: Scott Schliebe/USFWS

Of the 12 polar bear subpopulations we have data for, only one small population is increasing, three others appear stable and EIGHT are declining.

Polar bears need sea ice – using it for hunting, traveling, breeding and resting – and its loss due to global warming is the primary threat to polar bear. 

  • Follow the Polar Bear  
  • Clearly, climate change poses the most compelling conservation challenge to polar bears, and that is really a challenge that will affect nearly everything we do.

    But it isn’t the only threat.

    Commercial trade in polar bears is growing, and the United States is concerned that commercial trade compounds the threat to the polar bear due to the loss of sea ice.

    That is why the United States has submitted a proposal for consideration at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in March to transfer the polar bear to Appendix I of CITES from Appendix II.