Polar bears are threatened from many sides. Most people think that the only really big problem they face are the effects of climate change. This myth is being perpetuated by almost all the persons and institutions who have a say in polar bear matters. In the meantime, however, a completely unsustainable and anachronistic hunting regime is being allowed to continue.
One thousand polar bears are shot every year.
Most of this hunt is legal and a convergence of interests leads to this being condoned by the majority of the polar bear nations, Inuit leaders, elite scientists, polar bear managers, and our largest conservation NGOs: those supposedly responsible for keeping polar bears safe in the face of climate change and an uncertain future. The precautionary principle is not applied to polar bear management, and there is no arms-length principle between hunters, managers, scientists and politicians. Conservation efforts are symbolic at best and totally insufficient. The community of stakeholders is covering up the facts, disguising the numbers, manipulating the picture, in order to safeguard commercial interests rather than polar bears.
Polar bears are indeed facing extinction. But it is not because of global warming alone – it is because while global warming continues, we are allowing them to be shot.
In the first chapter of the book, the author reaches the conclusion that polar bears were previously more numerous than is generally described, putting the current demise of the species into an even darker perspective than that usually envisioned. He also documents that the current polar bear management community is rather systematically covering up the protection and conservation failures by manipulation of the numbers, both the historical ones and the current ones.
In the second chapter, the direct human destruction by shooting every year of about 1,000 polar bears is put into perspective. Alongside all the other human-caused stress to polar bears, this hunting scenario is documented here to be the one major threat to polar bears that could immediately be changed if there was enough will to do so.
In the third chapter of the book, the claimed successful conservation and management of polar bears is pulled apart, country by country and sub-population by sub-population, to reach the clear but sad conclusion that polar bear conservation is non-existent – the bears are being hunted out of existence.
In the fourth chapter of the book, the commercialization of polar bears, how they have been and are being reduced to commodities, to money-makers, to rugs – is described, but also how this commercialization of the species is corrupting even those who do not stand to gain directly from the hunting and trading. The chapter describes the scandal that allows the continuation of international trading in polar bear body parts, that allows the continuation of trophy hunting, and that allows the continuation of rampant poaching in some areas.
The book’s fifth chapter is an analyses of the complexities and paradoxes of modern Inuit identity – and how this is being used and abused by polar bear stakeholders for individual gain and political status quo, instead of changing our policies to safeguard the bears.
After so many rather depressing and negative conclusions, the final chapter of the book concludes what the actual state of polar bear management is on a worldwide scale, but also finds that there are actually ways out of this situation. A long string of very clear and precise recommendations for immediate action are listed at the end, giving everyone from hunters to politicians, managers to scientists, as well as any concerned citizen anywhere, an opportunity to decide, act – and make a difference.
Morten Jørgensen has been travelling since childhood and has seen many places – but he have been returning to the Arctic yearly for almost two decades. He has worked in small-ship expedition cruise tourism, as guide, lecturer, Zodiac (small inflatable boat) driver, and expedition leader. He has focused his attention on the biological, ecological and environmental aspects of the area, studying the changes occurring, and educating about them. He has seen local changes happening in his lifetime, changes in sea-ice quality, sea-ice cover and glacier cover, species diversity and abundance, and changes in human activity. He has been involved in tourism management, guide management, impact management and species data collection. He has met and made friends with scientists, managers, politicians, operators, guides, local inhabitants, hunters, consumers, and tourists – and he has had many discussions with them about these matters. He is committed to continue doing his part to ensure a viable future for polar bears. Writing this book is not the end, but rather the beginning.
"In this impassioned book Morten raises very important, provocative questions that are not being addressed by the international environmental groups. Questions we must pay attention to lest the legacy of our generation be one of being forewarned without acting in the face of species extinction."
- Art Wolfe, Award-winning conservation photographer
"This book explores the minefields between the many lobby groups, from Inuit hunters to conservation institutions to governments, and it explores the failures to adhere to international agreements and conventions. This book is an eye-opener and should kick off extensive debates."
- Dr. Thor S. Larsen, professor emeritus, member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group 1968-85