There is a second threat to polar bear trophy imports into the US that is taking place independently of the “threatened” listing proposal under the ESA. One or more polar bear regions are also being reviewed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service due to the Kerry Amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That is language that Senator John Kerry added to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) reform of 1994 at the prompting of Humane Society of the United States. Now, HSUS is insisting on its enforcement.
More than a year ago HSUS and its counterpart, the International Humane Society (HSI), started making demands on the USF&WS’s International Program “to stop allowing the import of polar bear trophies into the United States,” according to Namoi A. Rose, Ph.D. She is HSUS’s top marine mammal scientist that directs HSUS’s “efforts to police the enforcement and implementation of the 1994 amendments to the MMPA.” “HSI has continued to urge the USF&WS to formally review its approval for import of those stocks affected by the quota increase – we firmly believe the law requires the USF&WS to rescind the import approvals, as the best available science does not support a quota increase, particularly one so substantial,” according to Naomi Rose. The “law” she cites is the Kerry Amendment.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS stated, “Polar bears are in trouble, as a consequence of global warming. The last thing they need is to be chased down and killed in their Arctic environment by individuals seeking trophies. While the United States prohibits trophy hunting of polar bears, it does allow American hunters to kill a polar bear in Canada and import the body or pelt back to the United States. The United States needs to close that loophole in the MPMA if it is serious about protecting this vulnerable species.” HSUS reports that USF&WS responded that “[t]he Service is looking carefully at the situation to determine the best and most expeditious course of action to meet our responsibilities.…”
In its published proposal to list the polar bear as threatened, the USF&WS states that it is currently reviewing import of polar bear independently of the ESA listing process. It specifically cites the Western Hudson Bay region but references all trophy importing regions. It also has not acted on Conservation Force’s petition to approve the Gulf of Boothia region which has had a well-documented and significant polar bear population increase. Conservation Force petitioned the USF&WS three years ago to approve those trophy imports, but the threat from HSUS has apparently nullified our requests as it so often does.
The Service’s additional authority for review comes from language added by Senator John Kerry in 1994 when the MMPA was being reformed to permit trophy imports for the first time in more than two decades. First, Congressman Jack Fields, his staff and others had the trophy importation reform passed in the House of Representatives. Then, Senator John Kerry single-handedly deleted the trophy importation authorization when the bill was before the Senate. In the Conference Committee, ranking senior Senator J. Bennett Johnston from my home state of Louisiana at my request saved the trophy import reform that has permitted import of the trophies. He reinserted the trophy import authority. It was then in conference that Kerry added his amendment authorizing the USF&WS to judgmentally review Canadian polar bear quotas to ensure they are sustainable. In the final passage in the Senate after the bill cleared the Conference Committee, Senator Kerry stated on the Congressional Record several times that he was “personally” opposed to the import of polar bear trophies, had done everything he could to kill the trophy import provision without success, but said be assured because he had added language granting oversight authority to the USF&WS to ensure any hunting was biologically sound. It is that language that has caused approval of import of trophies from many regions to be “deferred” by the USF&WS as I feared when I first viewed the language the morning after the compromise. It is now a new cause of concern for those regions that have already been approved for import and is blocking approval of the Gulf of Boothia region. HSUS got Kerry to add that language and is insisting upon its rigid enforcement today. The Kerry amendment is their hook, and the USF&WS International Programs office has its own history.
Though the Kerry amendment added in the Conference Committee gave the USF&WS far more authority and discretion than we or the Canadians would choose, Conservation Force is dealing with this issue and expects to keep most and probably all hunting open in the immediate future. Most populations of polar bear are increasing, and all are benefiting from tourist hunting, which is the best use of the bear and has contributed to what is the undisputed best polar bear management in the world.