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CITES Schizophrenia: Sharks And Rays Vs. Polar Bears

March 12, 2013

CITES giveth (to some sharks and manta rays), and CITES taketh away (or doesn’t giveth, for polar bears).

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(via Washington Post)

This news came out last week, but it illustrates perfectly the imperfections of the CITES regime and its inscrutable byzantine politics:

An international meeting of government wildlife officials rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the global trade of polar bear parts Thursday, following an impassioned appeal by Canadian Inuits to preserve polar bear hunting in their communities.

There are between 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears living in the wild in Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway, according to the most recent analysis, which was conducted in the early 1990s. Scientists project that as Arctic summer sea ice shrinks, many polar bear populations could decline by 66 percent by mid-century.

I still haven’t seen an account which explains what actually went on behind the scenes to kill this proposal. But all sorts of vote-trading and vote-buying is the norm at CITES. And often enough protecting endangered species is not, in fact, the priority.

Because it’s not like the evidence of climate change, and the rate at which it is occurring, is diminishing. In fact, a recent study only makes it look more dramatic in the context of the past 11,000 years of earth history.

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