Here are two more priceless quotes from the minutes of the last meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) – on issues with sea ice percentages used to define “ice-free” and the problem of bears with collars showing up on sea ice that, according to ice data, does not exist. These quotes are in addition to the ones I posted earlier this week (here and here).
See the original document for the context here.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic, breakup, conservation status, freeze-up, ice-free, IUCN, PBSG, satellite radio collars, sea ice concentration, sea ice experts, Seth Cherry, threatened with extinction, tracking polar bears
IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group conservation biologists are determined to have polar bears listed as ‘threatened with extinction’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2015 – even though the bears would not meet that classification if assessed today.
According to the minutes of their last meeting (in addition to the astonishing admissions from sea ice experts I reported yesterday), PBSG members are busy planning their strategy. They have thrown objectivity to the wind and are certain they can find a way to
mask overcome the inadequacies of their case and see polar bears remain listed as ‘vulnerable’ (IUCN-equivalent to ‘threatened’ in the US) on the 2015 IUCN Red List update.
Along with some other priceless quotes, the minutes reveal their plan. See the original document for the context of these quotes here and an excerpt of “the plan” (pgs. 12-17) here. Continue reading
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged Bayesian models, conservation biology, conservation status, IUCN, PBSG, polar bear, population estimates, predictions, Red list, threatened, vulnerable
Here’s a significant turn of events involving a story I reported on earlier: a US District Court judge ruled on Friday 25 July 2014 that the Bering/Chukchi Sea population of bearded seal (Erignatha barbatus) was improperly given ‘threatened’ species status in 2012. Judge Beistline ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “to correct deficiencies in its study of the population.“
Bearded seals are important secondary prey species for polar bears in some regions of the Arctic (Thiemann et al. 2008), after ringed seals (which were also listed as ‘threatened’ in 2012).
Among other points made in his written decision, the judge is quoted as saying (reported here):
“A listing under the ESA based upon speculation, that provides no additional action intended to preserve the continued existence of the listed species, is inherently arbitrary and capricious.” [my emphasis]
“Arbitrary and capricious” — now that’s a slap-down. He also reportedly called the ESA listing “an abuse of discretion.”
The question is, how often have other ESA listings – not challenged in court – been based on similarly arbitrary and capricious decisions that also involved an abuse of discretion?
More quotes from Judge Beistline’s decision, and reaction to it, below.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska District Court judge, arbitrary, bearded seal, conservation status, declining sea ice, ESA, Judge Beistline, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, polar bear prey, predictions, threat to survival, threatened with extinction
You’ve probably heard the argument: animal populations that have been through a major decline in numbers often have such low genetic diversity that they are extremely vulnerable to subsequent extinction.
Photo credit USGS
In an interview in late March regarding a new genetic paper on polar bear evolution (by Matt Cronin and colleagues), polar bear biologist and Polar Bears International spokesperson Steve Amstrup made a ridiculous statement: that polar bears have never experienced a rate of warming like they’ve seen over the last 30 years. I countered that easily here.
In that same interview about the Cronin et al. paper, fellow geneticist Charlotte Lindqvist offered an outdated argument against future polar bear survival that is as easy to refute as Amstrup’s “unprecedented rate of warming” nonsense.
I didn’t have time to deal with it back in April [where has the time gone?] but want to get back to it now because it’s important: there is lots of evidence to support my contention that polar bears are not more vulnerable to extinction just because they have low genetic diversity.
Posted in Conservation Status, Evolution
Tagged Amstrup, extinction, extinction risk, genetic diversity, increasing genetic diversity, Lindqvist, low genetic diversity, polar bear, population bottleneck, population size, recovery, reduced population size, threat to survival, threatened species
“Our results suggest that mark–recapture estimates may have been negatively biased due to limited spatial sampling. We observed large numbers of bears summering in southeastern WH, an area not regularly sampled by mark–recapture.” Stapleton et al. 2014.
Polar bear at Wapusk National Park in August 2011. Courtesy Parks Canada.
We’ve seen the results of this 2011 study before, in government report format. But now it’s been revamped, peer-reviewed and published in a respected scientific journal – it actually came out in February, without fanfare, but I’ve only just come across it.
Some excerpts below, with conclusions that should raise some eyebrows.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged aerial survey, early breakup, endangered, invalid methods, later-than-average breakup, mark-recapture, polar bear, population estimate, Seth Stapleton, Southern Beaufort, Southern Hudson Bay, threatened, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wapusk National Park, western hudson bay
Christina Wu at the Urban Times (July 3, 2014) recently asked this question. She came up with a surprisingly balanced argument but some predictable responses from IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) biologists. As a consequence, she overlooked some critical facts that make a big difference to the answer.
Figure 1. Predictions of polar bear population declines by 2050 are being used by the Center for Biological Diversity, WWF and Polar Bears International to solicit donations.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged Amstrup, Center for Biological Diversity, Chukchi Sea, computer models, endangered species, global warming, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, more polar bears, PBSG, Peacock, polar bear, population increase, predictions, sea ice decline, Southern Hudson Bay, threatened with extinction, western hudson bay, York
Well, well, well — it looks the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) just had itself another secret meeting with some extra special guests.
Polar bear scientists and PBSG-approved activists got together a few weeks ago (June 9-13), with no notice beforehand, “to continue discussions how (sic) to solve issues of future capacity.”
This was their “second intersessional members-only meeting in a row” (the first one was in October 2012), but they still haven’t had their regular, now long-overdue, “working meeting.” [they had the last one in 2009].
I came upon a notice about this meeting on the PBSG website, which apparently went up June 26, while looking for something else. There has been nothing about it in the media that I’ve seen.
And guess who were “invited specialists” at this meeting of “members-only,” called “to discuss internal matters crucial for the future functioning and capacity of the group”?
Three “climate scientists“!
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged climate change, climate scientists, global warming, Jennifer Kay, Marika Holland, Mark Serreze, PGSG, polar bear, polar bear estimates, Polar Bear Specialist Group, Russia, TEK, traditional ecological knowledge
Again this year – contrary to predictions – there has been no early breakup of the sea ice on Hudson Bay and even though it’s the height of summer, there is plenty of ice throughout the Arctic to act as a feeding platform for polar bears. This makes it unlikely there will be a longer-than-average summer fast for polar bears again this year.
Sea ice maps around the Arctic for June 21 (and June 24, for Hudson Bay) reviewed and discussed below in relation to polar bear habitat — have a look.
Posted in Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Chukchi Sea, critical feeding period, early summer ice coverage, Hudson Bay breakup, Jon Aars, polar bear, polar bear habitat, sea ice maps, spring sea ice, summer fast, Svalbard, Svalbard cubs, western hudson bay
Media agency Aljazeera gave free advertizing the other day (June 16, 2014, “New TV ads focus on plight of polar bears in warming world,” by Renee Lewis) to the Center for Biological Diversity’s TV fear-mongering campaign about polar bears.
With unmitigated gall, it’s being billed as a “public service announcement.”
Posted in Advocacy, Cannibalism, Conservation Status
Tagged Aljazeera, animal tragedy porn, appeals to emotion, brink of extinction, CBD, Center for Biological Diversity, extinction, fear-mongering, global warming, Kieran Suckling, plight of the polar bear, polar bear, predictions, public service announcement, scam, TV ads
While I was in London, ahead of my House of Lords lecture on June 11, 2014 (“Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science“)*, I had a chat with Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Have a listen here: “An Interview with Dr Susan Crockford on polar bears, evolution and Arctic controversies.“
I’ve been traveling for a month but I am finally home — tired and jet-lagged after a journey that took me two-thirds of the way around the world and back. More on my experiences as my energy for blogging returns.
*I shouldn’t have to point this out but I will: I was not paid for this lecture, nor for the airfare to London (I was passing through town anyway). As the timing of the lecture required an overnight stay, GWPF did pick up the tab for a hotel room and dinner, as hosting organizations for such events do as a matter of course.
Posted in Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged Benny Peiser, Dr Susan Crockford, evolution, Global Warming Policy Foundation, GWPF, healthy polar bears, House of Lords, interview, lecture, less than healthy science, London, polar bears