Polar Bear Conservation in Canada: Defining the Policy Problems

  • Douglas A. Clark
  • David S. Lee
  • Milton M.R. Freeman
  • Susan G. Clark
Keywords: Canada, conservation, decision process, Endangered Species Act, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, Nunavut, polar bear, policy, policy sciences, traditional ecological knowledge, Ursus maritimus


Conservation of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Canada is based on the goals and principles of the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and Their Habitat, and has long been considered an exemplar of science-based wildlife management. However, accelerating social and ecological changes in the Arctic raise questions about the polar bear management regime’s ability to adapt successfully to new challenges. We apply the analytic framework of the policy sciences to develop a comprehensive orientation to this evolving situation, and we suggest possible ways to define and advance shared goals of stakeholders and other participants. We conclude that the decision process in polar bear management does not sufficiently foster identification and securing of common interests among participants who express multiple, competing perspectives in an arena that has been increasingly fragmented and symbolically charged by issues such as the recent listing of polar bears under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The fundamental challenge for polar bear conservation in Canada is to design a better decision process so that it can constructively reconcile the various perspectives, demands, and expectations of stakeholders.