By Aidan Wallace. Originally published in the Toronto Sun.
The polar bear population is increasing according to federal affidavits submitted by Inuit groups, Blacklock’s Reporter reports.
“Inuit have not noticed a significant decline in the health of the polar bears,” the director of wildlife management for the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board wrote in a court affidavit.
“In fact Nunavik Inuit report that it is rare to see a skinny bear and most bears are observed to be healthy,” the affidavit read.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have used the polar bear population as evidence of the effect of climate change.
However, the affidavit claimed Nunavut residents have seen an “increase in the polar bear population and a particularly notable increase since the 1980s.” The affidavits were submitted in response to hunting quota cuts made by Environment Canada.
Environment Canada cited “conservation concerns” as justification for the cuts. The Inuit challenge was ultimately dismissed.
One hunter was quoted in a Wildlife Board report saying there’s no “shortage” of polar bears and that “they’re (polar bears) not going extinct.”
The Wildlife Board report also claimed, “Many participants were very concerned about perspectives from outside Nunavik that polar bears are endangered elsewhere.”
“All interviews conducted in the Southern Hudson Bay communities shared the view the population grew somewhat from the 1960s until the 1980s, and that a continued increase has been very noticeable since that time,” the report said.
Polar bears aren’t listed as a threatened or endangered species by a federal panel monitoring Canadian wildlife under the Species At Risk Act, Blacklock’s Reporter reports.
Meanwhile, one study by the WWF described polar bears as the “poster child for the impacts of climate change on species.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, McKenna tweeted a National Geographic photo of a sickly-looking polar bear in 2017 with the caption: “This is what climate change looks like. Climate change is real. As are its impacts. Time to stand up for our polar bears and our planet.
Environment Canada estimates Canada is home to approximately 16,000 polar bears.