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Effective immediately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not issue permits to allow the import of sport-hunted polar bears taken after May 31, 2000, the close of the 1999- 2000 Canadian hunting season, from the M^Clintock Channel population, Nunavut, Canada. Due to a dramatic decline in the estimated status of this particular polar bear population, the Service today announced an emergency interim rule revising its regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The use of an emergency interim rule allows the Service to take action based on new information, quickly inform the public about the change to the regulations, and, at the same time, ask for comments from the public. The Service is conferring with the Canadian government to learn what actions are being taken, in consultation with local Native communities, to manage the M^Clintock Channel polar bear population and what further scientific data is available on this population. The Service will consider this information and all comments received during the 60-day comment period, determine whether the emergency interim rule should be modified, and publish a final rule. "This action is required because the MMPA stipulates that populations must be sustainable in the long term in order for us to issue import permits, and available information suggests this is no longer the case for the M^Clintock Channel population," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "According to new information given to us by the Canadian Wildlife Service, even with remedial steps the M^Clintock polar bears are not expected to recover for a number of years." The MMPA requires the Service to review the best available information and independently decide whether specific conditions are met before it can issue import permits for polar bear trophies taken in Canada. In making its determination, the Service must look at whether Canada has a sport-hunting program based on scientifically sound quotas that ensure the maintenance of the specific polar bear population at a sustainable level and a monitoring and enforcement program that meets the purposes of the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. The Canadian Wildlife Service sent the Service a preliminary report from the territorial government of Nunavut on the estimated status of the polar bear population in M^Clintock Channel, based on a 3-year mark-recapture study. They advised that "this population is in a severely depleted state and current harvest quotas are unsustainable." The best information now available estimates there are only about 288 polar bears in the M^Clintock Channel population, rather than an earlier estimate of 700. This new figure indicates that, at the current rate of harvest, the population is declining and will be reduced to zero in 10 years. Even with no harvest, the recovery of the population will be slow.

Uploaded: 1/11/2001