The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday a plan drafted to save polar bears.
A team of stakeholders from public and private sectors and nonprofit organizations created the Draft Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan (CMP) to be officially submitted on Monday, allowing public comments until August. The plan puts emphasis on the reduction of greenhouse gas, among other things.
In 2008, polar bears made their way to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), mostly because of Arctic warming, which has led to the loss of their habitat in sea ice.
The draft proposal also aims to reduce man-made air pollution, lessen the exposure of the bears to contamination caused by oil spills, and limit the bears' human contact, which could result in conflicts. Bears have been spending more time to look for food ashore, and conflict with humans should be avoided.
Also in 2008, a scientific model was created, and later updated in 2010, to project a change in the population of polar bears. The updated model put forward the inclusion of this century's greenhouse gas emissions. One scenario models greenhouse gas emissions as leveling off by mid-century then declining, while another scenario sees emissions increasing. Either way, the polar bear population is projected to have greatly declined by 2050.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says that if the emissions of greenhouse gas are stabilized at lower levels, polar bears may persist longer.
According to the agency, while polar bears are losing their homes in the melting of polar ice, so are their preferred prey, ringed seals. The bears are then forced to swim at greater lengths to find food, greatly affecting their winter fat reserves.
Even as polar bears play a significant role in the native culture of Alaska, they may, in fact, eventually cease to exist. Representative organizations, therefore, have contributed to the drafting of the CMP, urging people to help in preserving the population of the polar bears.
The draft, the U.S. says, will serve as its contribution to an action plan being developed by Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Russian Federation.
Photo: Hasan Basri Akirmak | Flickr