Polar Bear Sport Hunting Serves Polar Bear Survival

 

Congress passed amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act that authorized the trophy import of Polar Bear. The biological status of polar bear has improved as a direct consequence of the increase in sport hunting of the bear. The IUCN Red List book does not even list the polar bear in any threatened category. It is merely found to be dependent upon the conservation it is receiving. The revenue the Inuit people are deriving from their polar bear harvest has tripled since the MMPA reform. The total number of polar bear harvested annually has decreased by 100 which is approximately 20 percent. Even more significantly, the harvest has shifted away from females to males, which itself will lead to a greater population of bears. The top scientist in the Northwest Territories advises that sport hunting has stimulated the greatest advances in polar bear conservation in decades. All bear taken before April 30, 1994 have been "grandfathered" by a special Act. The USFWS has not denied any areas, it has just "deferred" the decision on the areas not yet approved such as Foxie Basin, Davis Strait, Baffin Bay (between Baffin Island and Greenland), Kane Basin and Queen Elizabeth Islands.

 

QUOTAS VERSUS SUSTAINED YIELD

 

There is a dangerous misconception by some hunters and the general public that quotas for safari hunting are synonymous with the maximum number of animals that can be harvested without a population decline of that hunted animal. Consequently those people incorrectly think that the exceeding of a quota threatens the population. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Game animal quotas for safaris are set at a level to maintain trophy quality that is competitive with other hunting destinations. It has little relationship to the harvest level point at which a population decline begins. For example, if an elephant quota were set at .75 percent to maintain trophy quality (which is common), the potential sustainable yield of elephant for meat harvest purposes might be five to seven percent, the annual population growth rate. In this example, hunters would have to exceed the quota seven-fold before the real harvest level limits were exceeded. Even that is an understatement. Trophy hunters shoot males, which unlike females exist far in surplus of what is necessary for reproduction, i.e., you don't need them all, so you can harvest more males than females. There have been attempts to reduce population growth by shooting all the males that can be found with the opposite result. The population growth actually increased because the elimination of the older males that provided security from sexual harassment were eliminated, with the result that the younger, more sexually aggressive juvenile males were not suppressed by the larger, more dominant males that had been eliminated. If you are having trouble following this, think of whitetail deer in North America. In some southern states, every buck with any size horn that could be found was harvested each season. Nevertheless, the deer population skyrocketed in growth.

 

The few males that escaped were enough for reproduction as long as the doe population was not harvested. The quota was every male deer that could be found and still the deer have thrived. For trophy deer the quota would have to be like it is at safari destinations, a small fraction of the adult males and would not have the remotest relationship to the maximum sustainable harvest for survival. You can complain about trophy quality but you can't claim that safari hunting/trophy hunting is jeopardizing a game species in most instances. A low-volume, select harvest of males is far different than the maximum sustainable harvest and therefore even the population estimate upon which a quota is based is generally not critical. In fact, such a harvest can be expected to make room for more productive members of the species (Rowan Martin, Gene Decker).