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Премия рунета 2017

Polar bears’ hunting by the indigenous peoples of Chukotka

The position of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on the recommendations of the Russian-American Commission on Polar Bears in the framework of the agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States of America «On the conservation and use of the Chukchi-Alaskan polar bear population».


An introduction of a system for the allocation of equivalent quotas for the hunt of polar bears by the indigenous population of Chukotka and Alaska has been recommended at a meeting of the US-Russian Polar Bear Commission in June 2010, in Anchorage (Alaska). While in the US it has been possible to hunt polar bears to meet the traditional vital needs of indigenous populations, in Russia any form of polar bear capture has been banned since 1956. Henceforth, for the first time in 55 years, this agreement opens up possibilities of legal hunting of polar bears in Russia.

This decision is based on the Commission’s understanding of inadmissibility of the current situation with polar bears’ hunting (legal, but without setting quotas for seizures in the US and illegal, and uncontrolled in Russia). The modern total killing rate of animals is disastrous for the population. The recommended annual quota of 58 animals will be equally distributed between the population of Alaska and Chukotka, provided that the maximum number of procured females does not exceed 19 individuals. The quota includes all cases of seizure of animals from nature, including due to threat to human life.

The size of the quota established by the Commission is based on current scientific data and expert assessment of the Commission’s scientific group, according to which the total number of the Chukchi-Alaska polar bear population is about 2,000 individuals. At the June meeting, the members of the Commission called on both sides (the relevant bodies responsible for implementing the terms of the agreement at the regional and federal levels) to start developing programs to control the issuance of quotas, including a permit to hunt outside the hunting season. Members of the Russian and US sections of the Commission were instructed to develop a draft Polar Bear Hunting Policy by June 2011.

WWF draws attention to the significant difference in conditions and opportunities of Chukotka and Alaska in the management of polar bear resources and the volume of relevant scientific data.


In the USA, the Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears and the US Marine Mammal Protection Act have been signed in 1970. Under the terms of these documents, polar bear hunting was banned for non-indigenous Alaska residents. The introduction of quotas recommended by the US-Russian Commission will be the first limit for polar bear hunters who meet traditional life needs in the Chukchi Sea region and reduce the number of bears killed in Alaska from 37 individuals (currently) to 29 individuals.

Members of the Alaska Indigenous Peoples NGO «Nanuuk», which consists of hunters who hunt animals to meet traditional vital needs, and specialists of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States, have experience in controlling the procurement of bears by introducing a marking system to track the movement of skins and skulls. With the introduction of a common quota, this system should prevent or minimize illegal hunting of polar bears, as well as ensure a timely review of the size of quotas in accordance with the state of the population and the state of the species’ habitats.


In accordance with Russian legislation, hunting of polar bear is completely banned. However, cases of illegal hunting take place. The exact level of illegal killings is unknown, however, according to experts, the number of illegally procurement of animals range from 40 to 280 individuals per year (based on analysis over the last 10–15 years).

The quota established within the framework of the Agreement includes all types of procurement. The current level of polar bear poaching in Chukotka may already exceed the size of Russian quota (29 individuals). Obviously, more accurate information and assessment of the current situation is required. WWF is aware that state bodies both at the federal and regional levels do not have necessary resources to control killings and sale of wildlife and their derivatives, as well as to combat poaching. That is why WWF continues to work with the federal government and regional authorities of Chukotka, local organizations and scientists to develop responsible practices of polar bear hunting in the future.

WWF’s position on the issue:

  • WWF defines its position regarding the procurement and gathering of flora and fauna based on current scientific data on the state of the population and the ability of the population to maintain viability in conditions when this species is harvested;
  • WWF recognizes the important role of polar bear hunting in preserving traditional way of life of indigenous peoples of Chukotka and Alaska, which is also reflected in the bilateral agreement.

WWF’s position with respect to the Agreement:

WWF welcomes the decision of the Governments of the USA and Russia, as well as the indigenous peoples of Chukotka and Alaska, to sign the Agreement, the main purpose of which is to preserve the common Chukotka-Alaskan polar bear population. First of all, WWF considers this document as an environmental agreement that guarantees to the representatives of local communities of the Arctic an opportunity to play an important role in the management and conservation of polar bears, which is a true symbol of the North.

WWF supports the Commission’s conclusions that the effectiveness of species conservation within the framework of the Agreement depends entirely on the organization of effective monitoring of the population size, combating poaching, reducing the level of conflict between the polar bears and humans via mechanisms planned to be developed with the involvement of indigenous people. In addition, for the successful implementation of the environmental goal of the Agreement, each case of illegal hunting of polar bears and commercial use of the species should be investigated and their quantity minimized.

WWF is concerned about the high level of illegal killings of polar bears in Chukotka and in the Russian Arctic as a whole. WWF and TRAFFIC are also concerned about recent increase in demand for polar bear skins in Russia, which determine the growth of illegal hunting. We commit ourselves to continue to work with various organizations, indigenous communities and the academic community for a successful implementation of the Agreement. WWF is concerned with the lack of data on the current state and dynamics of the polar bear population on which the recommended volume of procurement quotas are based, as well as the sharp reduction in ice cover in the polar bears’ habitats in the Chukchi Sea. At the moment, most important scientific research is being conducted in the American part of the Chukchi Sea, and its results will also form the basis for the Commission’s decision making. WWF staff participates in the study; the fund also financed part of Russian and American specialists’ field work in 2011.

In accordance with the principles of sustainable production process, and given differences in the conditions of the countries of the Chukchi-Alaska polar bear population, WWF is confident that:

  • implementation of quotas for the procurement of polar bears in Alaska is possible;
  • implementation of quotas for the procurement of polar bears in Chukotka is possible only if certain conditions are met.

WWF is confident that, under the terms of the Agreement, an implementation of quotas for the procurement of polar bears in Chukotka is possible only after certain conditions have been secured and the following resource management mechanisms have been developed:

  • modern and reliable assessment and monitoring of polar bear population in Chukotka;
  • effective control over illegal polar bear hunting, including research and control of market demand;
  • introduction of an effective and open system for tracking, reporting and controlling the killings of polar bears and the sale of its derivatives;
  • development and implementation of population’s size monitoring system (including research and installation of radio sensors) to develop future recommendations for polar bear hunting.

WWF is confident that the Agreement imposes obligations on both sides to finance long-term joint research to collect the necessary data on the size, state, reproductive status and other parameters of polar bear population, including forecasts for the future in order to establish hunting level that secures sustainable state of population.

WWF recognizes a positive environmental result in case if an effective system of protection and management of resources is implemented. The Fund will continue to work with the Governments of the Russian Federation and the United States, relevant structures, NGOs and local hunting communities to fulfill all necessary conditions.

WWF projects to support conservation of the Chukchi-Alaskan polar bear population:

  • WWF supports and provides direct financial support of the «Bear Patrol» program in Chukotka;
  • WWF and TRAFFIC program are carrying out a project to assess current level of illegal polar bear killings in Chukotka;
  • WWF staff act as experts in the US Fish and Wildlife Service project, which is conducting large-scale scientific research in the Chukchi Sea area in Alaska;
  • WWF takes an active part in the work of the parties to the Agreement on the Preservation and Management of the Chukchi-Alaskan Polar Bear Population, involving key partners in Chukotka and facilitating communication of the parties;
  • WWF supports scientific exchange program of Russian scientists involved in seasonal work of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the USA in the water area of the Chukchi Sea in Alaska in 2011, and will continue to work to improve skills of specialists of Chukotka.