(CNN) -- A U.S. plan to give new protection to polar bears was voted down Thursday at an international conference on endangered species.
The American delegation at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, had sought a ban on the international trade of polar bear parts. The ban was opposed by Canada, home to the world's largest population of polar bears, as well as Norway and Greenland. It failed with 38 votes for, 42 against and 46 abstentions.
"Unfortunately, politics seem to have overtaken science," Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the head of the U.S. delegation to the Bangkok conference, said in a statement.
Polar bears have been listed under Appendix II of the CITES accords, which applies to species that are not currently threatened with extinction but may face it without restrictions on the trade of their body parts. The U.S. had proposed moving polar bears to Appendix I, which applies to species threatened with extinction and effectively bans trade in their body parts.
The U.S. says that shrinking Arctic ice habitat, a product of a warming climate, puts polar bear populations in a precarious position. Two-thirds of the world's polar bear populations could face local extinctions within 45 years due to habitat loss, the National Resources Defense Council says.
Canada, which has 16,000 of the 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, says polar bear populations are not threatened and the animal does not meet the Appendix 1 criteria.
"The polar bear does not have a small wild population, it does not have a restricted area of distribution and no marked decline has been observed," Environment Canada says on its website. Canada also says polar bear parts coming from the country are taken in subsistence hunts, not by commercial operations.
"Harvest quotas are based on principles of conservation and Aboriginal subsistence, and are not market driven; an Appendix I listing would have no conservation benefit," the website says.
But the U.S. argued that parts from polar bears are traded among 70 countries and that trade encourages kills that, coupled with the habitat loss, put stress on populations that will cause them to shrink.
About 800 polar bears are killed by subsistence hunters each year, the U.S. says. Hides can sell for $2,000 to as much as $12,000, the FWS says.
"As polar bear hide prices have skyrocketed, more bears are being offered at auction, and hunting levels have increased," Ashe said in the statement.
"Prices for polar bear pelts have doubled over the last few years, and the signs are that trade is increasing. All the evidence says that it is simply unsustainable so it is foolish and negligible of us to allow it to continue when polar bear numbers are diminishing," Mansbridge said.
Do our governments act according to the best interests of the people and land, or do government officials concern themselves more with their own interests, opinions and politics? How can we say that a country votes for some outcome or another when the citizens of that country did not, in fact, vote?
Elected and non-elected representatives of a country are still human beings - and human beings, as is evidenced daily - are a greedy and spiteful lot. Seldom will there be a people's representative that acts solely in the best interests of the people and not in their own best interests. It is far too easy to buy votes and persuade representatives to support whatever proposal offers the best incentive.
Far too often votes are cast in favour of profit (for the voters and their buddies) over protection and sustainability of life. The very fact that no, or very little action is taken to support the animals and plants being destroyed and displaced by our activities shows that those who are in position to effect changes are choosing not to do so. The fact that we are still pumping massive amounts of toxins into our environment goes to show that there is no real interest in protecting life from the government or from the businesses who claim to be improving our communities.
Just consider how many preventable accidents take place in factories around the world - the only reason that no action was taken to prevent those accidents is that people are greedy and don't want to spend money on anything or anyone but themselves. A recent example is the Fukushima nuclear disaster after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan about 2 years ago. The nuclear disaster was a direct result of cutting corners with the safety of the power plant to save money.
The real problem is not that governments don't care - it's that nobody cares.