Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) of the southern Beaufort Sea population, distributed from approximately Icy Cape, west of Point Barrow, to Pearce Point, east of Paulatuk in Canada, are harvested by hunters from both countries. In Canada, quotas to control polar bear hunting have been in place, with periodic modifications, since 1968. In Alaska, passage of the United State Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 banned polar bear hunting unless done by Alaska Natives for subsistence. However, the MMPA placed no restrictions on numbers or composition of the subsistence hunt, leaving open the potential for an overharvest with no possible legal management response until the population was declared depleted. Recognizing that as a threat to the conservation of the shared polar bear population, the Inuvialuit Game Council from Canada and the North Slop Borough from Alaska negotiated and signed a user-to-user agreement, the Polar Bear Management Agreement for the Southern Beaufort Sea, in 1988. We reviewed the functioning of the agreement through its first 10 years and concluded that, overall, it has been successful because both the total harvest and the proportion of females in the harvest have been contained within sustainable limits. However, harvest monitoring needs to be improved in Alaska, and awareness of the need to prevent overharvest of females needs to be increased in both countries. This agreement is a useful model for other user-to-user conservation agreements.
Additional publication details
The polar bear management agreement for the southern Beaufort Sea: an evaluation of the first ten years of a unique conservation agreement