WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia ruled that importing polar bear trophies to the U.S. is illegal given the species status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is a major coup for the iconic species which faces mounting threats and staggering decreases in population.
“The decision issued today is an important step towards protecting and defending polar bears,” said Jeff Flocken, D.C. Office Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “There is no reward that comes with these trophies and we are glad the Court has recognized this.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service listed the polar bear as threatened under the ESA in May 2008. Environmental groups filed suit saying the species should be listed as endangered, which would offer it more protection. In June of this year, the court upheld the threatened listing, which prohibits hunting the species, as well as importing trophies. Safari Club International and a group of hunters filed suit claiming that the importation of polar bear trophies should still be allowed. The Court subsequently ruled that “sport-hunted polar bear trophies are no longer eligible for import as a result of the species’ depleted status.”
“Polar bear populations are in serious danger because of melting sea ice, habitat degradation, and pollution. Trophy hunting only makes the situation worse,” added Flocken. “The Endangered Species Act is the strongest tool we have to protect polar bears. As pro-trophy hunting organizations attempt to circumvent the laws designed to protect these species, it is important that we do everything in our power to ensure these safeguards remain intact.”
Legislation which would allow the import of polar bear trophies is also under review in Congress. Introduced by Representative Don Young (R-AK), HR 991 seeks to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) to allow the importation of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada before the date the polar bear was officially listed under the Endangered Species Act.