THE TROMSO MEETING 2009<v:shapetype coordsize="21600,21600" o:spt="75" o:preferrelative="t" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" filled="f" stroked="f" id="_x0000_t75"><v:stroke joinstyle="miter"></v:stroke><v:formulas><v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"></v:f></v:formulas><v:path o:extrusionok="f" gradientshapeok="t" o:connecttype="rect"></v:path><o:lock v:ext="edit" aspectratio="t"></o:lock></v:shapetype><o:p>
Meeting of the parties to the
1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears
Tromsø, Norway, 17 – 19 March 2009
OUTCOME OF MEETING ***
Climate change has a negative impact on polar bears and their habitat and is the
most important long term threat facing polar bears. Action to mitigate this threat is
beyond the scope of the Polar Bear Agreement. Climate change affects every
nation on the earth and reaches well beyond the five parties to the Agreement so
the parties look to other fora and national and international mechanisms to take
appropriate action to address climate change.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears was concluded in Oslo, Norway, on
15 November 1973, and today has Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United
States of America as parties.
At a polar bear range states meeting in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA, 26 – 28
June 2007, the range states, in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement,
including Articles VIII and IX, agreed that meetings under the Agreement should be held
on a biennial schedule or otherwise as agreed to by the Parties.
The range states also agreed in Shepherdstown that the first such meeting should be held
in 2009, and in 2008 the parties welcomed the offer of Norway to host such a meeting.
Against this background, the five parties met in Tromsø, Norway, 17 – 19 March 2009,
with an objective to provide an update on the conservation status for the polar bears,
review implementation of the Agreement, identify useful polar bear conservation
strategies and to discuss mechanisms for enhanced implementation of the Agreement.
The parties continue to regard harvest management as an important part of polar bear
management. The parties note the important progress made in developing sustainable
harvest regimes, including the setting of bilateral coordinating mechanisms. The parties
recognized the cultural and nutritional importance of subsistence harvest of polar bears to
the Native peoples of the north.
Polar bears and climate change
The parties agreed that impacts of climate change and the continued and increasing loss
and fragmentation of sea ice -- the key habitat for both polar bears and their main prey
species -- constitutes the most important threat to polar bear conservation.
The parties noted with deep concern the escalating rates and extent of changes in the
Arctic induced by climate change to date and that future changes are projected to be even
larger. The parties agreed that long term conservation of polar bears depends upon
successful mitigation of climate change.
The parties agreed that conservation of polar bears requires adaptive management in
response to climate change. The primary adaptation strategy will be to manage and
reduce the other stresses on polar bears and their ecosystems, such as habitat destruction,
harvesting, pollution and anthropogenic disturbance. Furthermore, continued climate
change amplifies such stressors and underscores the need for proactive and
comprehensive management strategies.
Resilience of polar bear populations to climate change depend upon proactive approaches
and should be explored further to encourage conservation planning that is relevant both
today and in the future. The parties have differing capabilities and recognized the
advantages of sharing best management practices that address the range of impacts
associated with climate change.
The parties agreed that effective responses depend upon an understanding of likely
regional climatic and ecological changes. Monitoring climate and environmental change
– in particular loss of sea ice and denning habitat - and associated responses in polar bear
populations and the ecosystems that they depend upon is vital to allow for adjustments in
Longer term perspectives
The parties expressed concern that ultimately, opportunities for polar bear conservation
are limited by the magnitude and rate of change in climate and sea ice conditions.
The parties were also concerned that their common obligations to protect the ecosystem
of which polar bears are a part can only be met if global temperatures do not rise beyond
levels where the sea ice retreats from extensive parts of the Arctic. A scientific
presentation noted that if sea ice is reduced according to present projections, polar bears
are likely to be extirpated from most of their range within this century.
On this background, the parties recognized the urgent need for an effective global
response that will address the challenges of climate change. Further, the parties
recommended that ongoing efforts within appropriate fora negotiating strategies to
address climate change should be informed of the significance of climate change to the
conservation of polar bears.
The parties reinforced the importance of habitat protection as a means of implementing
Article II of the Agreement on protection of ecosystems of which polar bears are a part.
Parties also welcomed efforts already undertaken on habitat protection, including
protected areas and land and seascape planning.
The parties also recognized that expansion of protected areas can potentially reduce the
vulnerability of polar bear populations and the ecosystems of which bears are a part. It
was also recognized that protected areas should be designed with consideration of longterm
shifts in sea ice conditions that will result from climate change and the overall
integrity of habitats critical to polar bear survival.
Contaminants and pollution
The parties expressed concern that long range transport of pollutants into the Arctic
environment is shown to affect polar bears. The scope of these effects on polar bear
populations are only partially understood, but their impacts on some populations may be
significant. The parties also recognized that transport mechanisms may be altered and
effects on polar bears amplified as a result of climate change. Comprehensive monitoring
and research on the effects of contaminant loads in polar bears, and synergistic effects of
contaminants and climate change is therefore important.
The parties recognized the urgent need for an effective global response that will address
the challenges of contaminants. Ongoing efforts within appropriate fora negotiating
strategies to address contaminants should be informed of the significance of contaminants
to the conservation of polar bears.
Activities in polar bear areas
Industrial development continues to expand northward into areas used by polar bears.
Several areas of oil and gas interest are identified within these areas. The parties
recognize the need to identify key habitats for polar bears and areas in need of protection
to establish a basis for land and seascape planning in advance of development. The
parties also recognized the importance of having general operating procedures and
mitigation measures in place for developed areas. Such measures are in use in the US
Beaufort Sea coast oilfields and could provide guidance for other parties. Monitoring
impacts of industrial development on polar bears was considered important as was
contingency (emergency) planning. The parties agreed that strict environmental
regulations and standards are needed to protect polar bears potentially affected by
The parties recognized the likelihood of dramatically increased shipping as longer icefree
seasons increase access and open new trans-polar sea routes (Northern Sea Route;
transiting the Bering Strait; and Northwest Passage). Potential effects of shipping on
polar bears include pollution, noise, physical disturbance related to ice-breaking, and
waste. Shipping scenarios and associated impact assessments have been developed
through the Arctic Council (Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment). This assessment
should be considered by the parties in their work to develop specific mitigation measures,
including routing of traffic and other maritime safety measures; to identify monitoring
and research priorities; and, to establish contingency plans to minimize impacts from
shipping on polar bears.
Tourism and traffic
The parties recognized the value of tourism for economic and education development
goals. In some areas, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and range of
cruise ships moving further north into areas used by polar bears as open water access has
improved. Potential effects of increased tourism include pollution, disturbance and
increased risk of defense kills. Actions to address such impacts could include limiting
access to sensitive habitats, competence requirements for guides, guidelines and rules for
operating in polar bear areas and near polar bears, measures to reduce pollution risks, and
post trip reports of wildlife sightings and other activities from tour operators. Polar bear
viewing opportunities are expanding in many parts of the Arctic, and the parties
recognized the value of Canada’s management experience in Churchill.
Safety measures for people and communities
Bear-human interactions will increase due to expanding human populations, industrial
development and tourism. In addition, a continued increase in the number of
nutritionally stressed bears on land due to retreating sea ice will result in more bearhuman
interactions. The parties agree on the need to develop comprehensive strategies to
manage such conflicts. Opportunities to share techniques and develop strategies have
been identified above. Some existing strategies include active deterrence, reduction of
attractants, and community education and outreach. Expertise developed for
management of other bear species should be consulted in the development of strategies
specific to polar bears. The parties agreed to exhange experiences with management of
bear-human interactions and welcomed the US offer to lead such an effort in
collaboration with polar bear experts and managers from the other parties.
Two specific opportunities identified to develop bear-human interaction strategies are the
upcoming workshops in November 2009 in Canada and planned in Alaska in 2010.
Development of plans for action
In light of the growing concern over polar bear conservation in relation to climate change
and a number of other emerging issues, such as oil- and gas activities, shipping and
tourism, the parties agreed to initiate a process that would lead to a coordinated approach
to conservation and management strategies between the parties.
A key aspect of this approach is the recognition that plans for action should be developed
at a national level leading up to development of comprehensive circumpolar plans for
action that address polar bear conservation.
The process to provide advice to the parties will involve the following steps.
1. Parties request of PBSG an outline or identification of topics that should be
included in all national plans for action. Furthermore, PBSG should identify
elements that could benefit from international cooperation. The parties
recognized an interest in accomplishing this step in 2009.
2. Parties will review and discuss outline material provided by PBSG.
3. Parties will identify and initiate specific topics of general interest (such as bearhuman
4. Parties will identify topics where additional information may be helpful and
develop further requests to PBSG as needed.
The parties shared a general expectation that significant progress would be made by the
next biennial meeting.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
The parties recognized that polar bears play an important role in the socio-economical
and cultural well being of aboriginal peoples. TEK in concert with western science
should be utilized in polar bear management decisions.
The parties recognized that Article VII of the Agreement calls for all parties to conduct
national research programs, particularly relating to the conservation and management of
polar bears, and that they shall coordinate such research and exchange information on
research programs, results, and data on bears taken. Parties continue to be committed to
carrying out research in support of polar bear conservation.
The parties also recognized that the technical support and scientific advice on polar bear
conservation provided by the PBSG to the parties supports the 1973 Agreement and is a
vital part of the decision making process that the competent authorities should utilize in
making their management decisions concerning polar bear conservation.
The parties agreed to ask the PBSG to accept the role of scientific advisory group to the
parties and welcomed the offer by the PBSG chair to bring this to the PBSG for their
Other issues related to the conservation of polar bears
Export and import of polar bear products
The parties noted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) is the key regulatory mechanism for export and import in polar bear products
and that all parties have adequate statutory authority for CITES. The parties
acknowledged the significant progress made by Greenland in its implementation of
Cooperation in management of shared polar bear populations
Several polar bear populations are shared between parties, and the parties recognized the
mechanisms in place for cooperation on the management of these shared populations, and
encouraged further development of such cooperation.
The parties welcomed ongoing efforts to monitor status and trends for polar bear
populations, and agreed on the need to strengthen monitoring throughout the range of
polar bears, and to coordinate and harmonize national monitoring efforts.
Assessing the effectiveness of the Agreement
The parties agreed that a process should be developed to assess the effectiveness of the
agreement to achieve its core objectives, and agreed to come back to this at a later
biennial meeting under the Agreement.
Commitment to Continued Cooperation
In accordance with the provisions of the Agreement, including Articles VIII and IX, the
parties reconfirmed that meetings under the Agreement should be held on a biennial
schedule or otherwise as agreed to by the Parties.
The parties welcomed Canada’s offer to host the next biennial meeting in 2011 and
Russia’s offer to host the biennial meeting in 2013, noting that these offers facilitate a
multi-year approach to coordinated implementation of the Agreement.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the parties have agreed to carry out regular,
ongoing work leading to the 2011 meeting. Such collaboration would be facilitated by
the host of the next meeting informed by the host of the previous meeting.
*** This outcome document is not legally binding and creates no legally binding
obligations of the parties to the 1973 multilateral agreement for the conservation of polar
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