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Wildlife Branch


Polar Bears in Manitoba

Agreements, Legislation, and Policy for the Protection of Polar Bears in Manitoba

 International Agreements

Agreement on the SD of Polar Bears and their Habitat and the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group

  • The management of polar bears is guided by the International Agreement on the SD of Polar Bears and their Habitat that was signed in Oslo, Norway in 1973 by the five polar range states (Canada, Denmark, Norway, USA, and the former USSR). The Agreement forms an action plan for polar bear management.
  • The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) was officially established under the umbrella of the IUCN Species Survival Commission in 1968. It’s work provided the basis for the 1973 agreement and the group continues to provide informed advice on polar bear management.
  • The PBSG has at present 24 members, all research scientists from the five nations signing the Agreement. They meet every 3-5 years to discuss matters pertaining to research and management of polar bears throughout their range. The last meeting was held in Denmark in June 2009. The group invites specialists as felt necessary to address specific research and management issues of specific concern.


  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973) (CITES) has been in effect since July 1975.
  • Polar bears are included in Appendix II to the Convention ("all species which although not necessarily now threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival").
  • Since July 1975, a permanent record of all polar bears, hides, or any other products legally exported from or imported to Canada has been maintained by the Federal Government through the issue of permits.

National/Inter-jurisdictional Programs and Agreements

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)

  • COSEWIC assigns national status to species at risk in Canada. It is a committee of representatives from federal, provincial, territorial, and private agencies, as well as independent experts.
  • COSEWIC designated the polar bear as "Not At Risk" in 1986, which was upgraded to "Vulnerable" in 1991. No change in status was recommended in an updated status report for polar bears submitted to the COSEWIC Mammal Subcommittee in summer 1998 (Stirling and Taylor 1999). In April 1999, COSEWIC again listed the polar bear as "Vulnerable".
  • Species designations were recently changed, with the former category "Vulnerable" being replaced by the category "Special Concern". Consequently, COSEWIC currently lists the polar bear as a species of "Special Concern". Species of special concern have characteristics that make them particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events that could lead to endangerment.

Federal Provincial Polar Bear Technical Committee(PBTC) and Advisory Committee (PBAC)

  • Manitoba participates on the PBTC and PBAC which meet yearly to discuss polar bear management issues.