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No common ground at first polar bear summit

They gathered in the spirit of piliriqatigiingniq – Inuktitut for seeking a common goal – but panel members at the federal government”s first polar bear roundtable were hardly speaking with a single voice yesterday. At issue was the health of Canada”s 13 polar bear populations. On one side, researchers told federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice that the bears could be virtually extinct in a century. On the other, Inuit leaders spoke of bear populations doubling over the past 50 years, proliferating to the point of becoming a pest in many northern communities.

Researchers emphasized that while bear populations appear healthy now, seasonal ice is breaking up earlier with each passing decade, reducing the time bears have to pack on weight for spring and summer fasting. Current projections state that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by 2050. According to COSEWIC, the committee that designates an animals-at-risk status, four of Canada’s 13 populations are “in considerable difficulty.”

During a closing question-and-answer period, Mr. Prentice recognized the threat of climate change, but said it was more constructive to focus on conservation methods.

(From theglobeandmail.com – Winnipeg, Canada – By Patrick White)

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