Hunting of the polar bear, particularly for the fur trade, has increased in recent years and rendered the species vulnerable. Part of the problem is that such hunting is an intrinsic part of the Eskimo way of life, and the number of Eskimos is now increasing more rapidly than are the polar bears. In addition, the increasing exploitation of the mineral and fossil fuels of the arctic regions poses a continuing threat of encroachment and environmental degradation. The level of PCBs, (polychlorinated biphenyls) in marine mammals' fat is rising worldwide and can cause infertility in polar bears.
It has been estimated that no more than 30,000 - 40,000 polar bears remain. Research indicates that the annual sustainable yield may be as low as 3-4% of the population. There are several areas where polar bears are being hunted even though the population is inadequate.
Ursus maritimus is considered as "Lower Risk" sub-category "conservation dependent" by the IUCN. CITES lists the species as "Appendix 2".