Commerce Committee Approves Legislation to Implement the U.S.-Russian Polar Bear Treaty

November 17, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today unanimously approved S. 2013, the United States-Russia Polar Bear Conservation and Management Implementation Act.

This bill, which implements the provisions of the Polar Bear Treaty signed by the United States and the Russian Federation, was introduced by Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and is cosponsored by Committee Co-Chairman Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

S. 2013 will amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act by adding provisions to implement and enforce the Polar Bear Agreement. It prohibits the possession, import, export, transport, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of any polar bear (or any part or product thereof) that is taken in violation of the Treaty, and provides for enforcement of violations. It also establishes a process by which one representative of the United States government and one representative of the Native people of Alaska will be appointed to serve on the bi-national U.S. and Russian Polar Bear Commission established by the Polar Bear Agreement. This Commission will determine annual take limits and the adoption of other measures to restrict the taking of polar bears for subsistence purposes.

The Commission will also identify polar bear habitats and “develop recommendations for habitat conservation measures.” The bill authorizes $3 million for the Secretary of the Interior, $500,000 for the Polar Bear Commission, and $500,000 for the Alaskan Cooperative Management Program to oversee conservation management and subsistence harvests in Alaska. These amounts are authorized annually for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2010.

The bill now proceeds to the full Senate for its consideration.