ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act, has completed a status review of the polar bear, the second such review since the species was listed as threatened in 2008. The review, informed by the Service’s Species Status Assessment (SSA), concluded that the polar bear continues to meet the definition of a threatened species under the ESA.
The Service listed the polar bear as threatened due to the loss of its sea ice habitat. The SSA and status review continue to support the conclusion that polar bears rely heavily on sea ice for survival, and loss of sea ice is continuing due to a rapidly warming Arctic.
Globally, there are 19 subpopulations of polar bears in the United States, Canada, Norway, Greenland and Russia. Two polar bear subpopulations in Alaska are shared across international boundaries: the Southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation with Canada and the Chukchi Sea subpopulation with Russia. The current population estimate is 26,000; however, there is a lack of data on numerous subpopulations and no population estimates for several. The SSA found sea ice conditions and polar bear abundance similar to conditions five years ago when the last status review was completed. Future projections portray the likely effect of continued warming will be that most polar bear subpopulations will decline or continue to decline.
The SSA framework is an analytical approach developed by the Service to inform ESA decisions. This SSA brought together the best available Western science and Indigenous Knowledge to inform the status review. Additional information on the SSA process can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/project/species-status-assessment.
This status review and the SSA can be found at: https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/4958
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov.