Killing polar bears for sport is becoming an endangered activity. Foreign countries can’t stop Canadians from hunting the great white mammals, but they can make it illegal for their own residents to kill bears here and bring the pelts home. That’s exactly what an increasing number are doing. The U.S. outlawed the practice six months ago, and earlier this month the European Union followed suit, banning the import of polar bear trophies from two regions off the coast of Nunavut.
Environmentalists are cheering the move, but Inuit communities on the shores of Baffin Bay and Kane Basin say Ottawa should have done more to save the sport hunting trade. According to Titus Allooloo, who runs a hunting outfit out of Pond Inlet, “The ban will devastate the industry, probably kill it.”
The lucrative sport hunting business has been in jeopardy for some time. The bears have come to embody what the world stands to lose due to global warming, despite the fact that the Inuit say polar bear populations are rising. The irony is that harvest quotas will still be met, and as many bears will be killed as before. They’ll just be killed through traditional harvesting rather than sport hunting. Allooloo adds that he still gets a few American clients, but now they make arrangements to leave their pelts and trophies behind with local museums and stores in Canada.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice said he’s pleased that the EU ban is only partial, and that it may be lifted in the future if new actions are taken to protect polar bears. But Allooloo, meanwhile, is facing the loss of his livelihood. The seven European hunters he has booked for this season—each of whom typically spends about $50,000—may be among his last. “That will have a big impact on the community,” he says.