While researching the population status of Foxe Basin polar bears I came across an issue that seems to have garnered relatively little attention outside the polar bear community – Inuit objections to the handling of polar bears during mark-recapture surveys and the effect of this on polar bear research in Canada.
Foxe Basin is a large polar bear subpopulation region that encompasses the northern portion Hudson Bay into the area west of Baffin Island, see map below (courtesy IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group).
Mark-recapture research methods routinely used by polar bear biologists became especially contentious in Foxe Basin during a population study initiated in 2007/2008, with Inuit residents voicing objections and biologists defending its practice. The following year, the mark-recapture effort was halted and an aerial survey took its place.
The aerial survey has been completed and a report on it was released in 2012 (Stapleton et al. 2012; see previous post for results) but we’ve heard very little about what happened to that mark-recapture study and why the Government of Nunavut pulled the plug on it. I plan to change that with the next couple of posts.
I’m not claiming to understand the nuances of the story because I’m only going by available documents. However, I think it’s important to shine some light on this issue since it has clearly changed the shape of polar bear research in Canada.
Posted in Life History, Population
Tagged aerial survey, Atkinson, Canada, Derocher, field work, Foxe Basin, Inuit, mark-recapture, non-invasive research, Nunavut, objections to mark-recapture, Peacock, polar bear handling, polar bear research, research methods, Stapleton, tainted meat, tranquilizer drugs, Zoletil
There was a story in The Guardian on Friday (November 21) about an issue I covered earlier this year (in January): Canada under international pressure to list polar bears as threatened, so far holds out.
This time, Suzanne Goldenberg’s headline proclaims “Canada’s refusal to protect polar bears comes under scrutiny.”
The story is all about a petition filed by the ever-litigious Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to the North American free trade organization, the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC), pdf here. The CEC, it seems, has now agreed to investigate the CBD claims.
At issue here is the fact that Canada hasn’t done exactly what the US has done in terms of enacting formal legislation to protect polar bears. Canada, home to 2/3′s of the worlds polar bears (as well as a relatively large Arctic human population) vs. the USA, with the fewest bears in the world but perhaps the loudest, “we know best” attitude. Canada has not declared polar bears to be a species threatened with extinction but the Center for Biological Diversity not only thinks otherwise but thinks someone should force Canada to change its opinion.
It’s more of the same bullying of governments by environmental groups that we’ve come to expect, aided and abetted by activist polar bear biologists.
That said, I suggest you brace yourselves: it’s only going to get worse. We can expect even more of this over the next few weeks, because an important international polar bear meeting is coming up in early December. I expect that the propaganda, aided by an all-too-willing-media, is going to get intense. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status
Tagged activists, bullies, Canada, Center for Biological Diversity, climate change, COSEWIC, Derocher, Goldenberg, PBSG, petition, polar bears, SARA, special concern, threatened
[Updated Jan. 27, 2013 at 7:55 am PST Footnote added]
I was inspired to write this post after perusing the Q & A portion of the “What scientists say” section at Polar Bears International. One of the questions is this one:
Are Canadian scientists opposed to listing the polar bear as threatened, as some news organizations have reported?
While I don’t know when it was posted, this question appeared quite timely when I came across it, given the recent news (Nov. 30 2012) that “Canada is being forced to explain its policies to an international environmental watchdog” (Maclean’s magazine; see also the Calgary Herald story) because of a petition filed by the ever-litigious Center for Biological Diversity.
This petition, presented to the Commission on Environmental Co-operation by the CBD, followed on the heels of the news that Canada’s “Species at Risk Act” (SARA) will continue to list the polar bear as a species of “special concern” but not threatened or endangered (CBC story here).
The original petition was filed in November 2011 and re-issued in October 2012. It seems Canada now has until January 23, 2013 to respond to the Commission, after which an investigation could be launched.
We should hear their answer any day now – but guess what? Outspoken PBSG polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher looks to have at least inspired this petition, if he was not party to it.