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A severe decline in Canada^s M^Clintock Channel polar bear population has caused the Interior Department^s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the importation of polar bears taken after May 31, 2000, the close of the 1999-2000 hunting season. The ban will remain in effect until the agency determines that the population is healthy. Polar bears are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) which gives the Service the authority to regulate import permits. The Service placed an interim ban on the importation of these bears under an emergency rule published in January 2001. "The Canadian Wildlife Service informed us that it had revised the size of the M^Clintock Channel polar bear population downward from 700 to some 300 animals," said Marshall Jones, Acting Service Director. "In light of the smaller number, we are required by the law to stop issuing import permits until these polar bears are restored to a level where they can sustain some limited harvest". Canada decreased the sport-hunting quota for the M^Clintock Channel polar bear population from 32 to 12 animals for the 2000/2001 harvest season. In addition there is a hunting moratorium for 2001/2002. Canada is monitoring the M^Clintock Channel population and developing a long-term management strategy and recovery goals. When scientific and management data indicate that the M^Clintock polar bears are sustainable, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider whether the import permit ban should be relaxed. 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. It must also consider whether the monitoring and enforcement program meets the purposes of the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. For a copy of the October 5, 2001 Federal Register notice and a fact sheet on importing polar bear trophies, please visit the Service^s International Affairs homepage at

Uploaded: 10/5/2001