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MOSCOW, December 04. /ITAR-TASS/. An international forum on protection of the polar bear opened in Moscow on Wednesday. On the agenda are measures to ensure the survival of the species given conditions of retreating Arctic ice.
The forum is being attended by heads of environmental departments of the Arctic states — Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, the Danish autonomous territory of Greenland and representatives of international ecological organisations.
"The population of polar bear is in a critical condition because of global climate change, water pollution and poaching," Russian minister of natural resources Sergei Donskoi told the forum.
"In Russia, the environment has been under protection on around six percent of its overall Arctic territory, or on 332,000 square kilometers," he said.
"We are planning to increase the territory under protection many times and stimulate growth in the population of Arctic wild animals - above all, the polar bear, which is a symbol of the Arctic region," the minister said.
At present, the population of polar bear in Russia numbers 5,000-7,000, Russia's government putting the animal on the list of particularly valuable animals under threat of extinction, the minister said. A system of monitoring the population would be created, he added.
Canada's minister for the environment, Leona Aglukkaq, told the forum that the polar bear played an important role in the ecological system and stressed the importance of preserving the species. According to her data, the bear's world population was at 20,000 - 25,000, including 16,000 living on Canadian territory.
By the middle of the 21st century, the population might drop by two-thirds because of the narrowing ice, said Lars Lande, a representative of Norway's environment ministry.
U.S. Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Jeoffrey Haskett called for pooled efforts to ban the sale of products made from polar bear skins.