Moscow in December is a magical place. Snow and holiday lights transform the historic downtown into a true winter wonderland. Christmas decorations fill store windows, and decorate the interiors of cafés, and restaurants giving all a sense of hope and good cheer. Cooler temperatures and shorter days also seem to slow the pulse of this bustling capital city to a pace I can better appreciate.
It’s my fourth trip to Russia this year and I am here to participate in the most significant polar bear conservation event of the year: the International Forum on the Conservation of Polar Bears and Range States Meeting. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears – a landmark accord that brought much needed attention to polar bear research, management, and conservation policy. The Agreement effectively addressed the leading threat of the time, unrestrained commercial and sport harvest, and committed the Parties to the conservation of polar bears writ large and notably the ecosystem of which they are a part. This is the first pledge to use ecosystem based management for any multilateral conservation agreement.
As the Agreement enters its 40th year, both the times and the threats have dramatically changed. No longer is harvest the leading concern for long-term conservation. Climate change and the resulting loss and alteration of sea ice habitat is fully in the fore. The loss of that protective ice cover is also opening both polar bears and their Arctic Home to a suite of new threats, largely centered around increasing human activity in the newly emergent seas. Will the Agreement and the Range States tackle these new challenges with the same sense of urgency that originally brought them together? Well, we hope to hear more on that topic this week.
Specifically we are seeking three results from the Forum:
- A roadmap for the completion of a global conservation plan and a timetable for its implementation
- Commitment to research and monitoring of polar bear populations and habitat
- Creation of a work path that includes all stakeholders, including: Indigenous peoples, governments, environmental and conservation organizations, academia, industry, and the international community
Stay tuned as we update progress this week- live from Moscow!