Barents Sea polar bears in excellent condition say Norwegian biologists

Conditions this year (2015) in the Barents Sea were excellent according to the polar bear researchers who work there (“Polar bears were as fat as pigs”).

Barents Sea bear 2015 August Cobbing_NPI
A new survey just completed for a population count showed the bears were are in excellent condition – except the injured ones, of course, which some news organizations are promoting as evidence of harm from global warming-induced sea ice changes because an activist photographer  – not scientists – said so.

Barents Sea polar bears in excellent condition, say Norwegian biologists

Photo above: Magnus Andersson and Jon Aars from the Norwegian Polar Institute are waiting for the anesthetic to work on polar bears. The bear is immobilized and will incur a satellite collars. A 7 month old young watching. (Photo: Nick Cobbing)

Photo above: Magnus Andersson and Jon Aars from the Norwegian Polar Institute are waiting for the anesthetic to work on polar bears. The bear is immobilized and will incur a satellite collars. A 7 month old young watching. (Photo: Nick Cobbing)

From a Google-translated report from “High North News” (h/t Moondogg) – Again, as the good news from this spring, this report is in a local Norwegian newspaper that western media outlets have failed to pick up. One wonders with the photo of the emaciated injured bear blamed on global warming going viral why neither of the two Norwegian biologists quoted below saw fit to contact someone from the western media (rather than local newspapers) and correct the impression that 2015 had such poor ice conditions that polar bears were starving?

The polar bears on Svalbard is round and full, thanks to a good [ice year] and good hunting opportunities. [bold in original]

“… Polar bears were fat, many looked like pigs, says polar researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, Jon Aars to the High North News.

Polar bears have had is going on [??}, and had access to a lot of seals. The ice came early last fall, and in July and August there was still ice on Storfjorden east of Spitsbergen, says Aars.

Aars who has researched Svalbard since 2003 cannot say to have seen very large climate changes during the last decade.

Besides that, before were several good isår [ice year]. It goes up and down, and in the 80s and 90s were the most of the good isårene [ice years]. Now there are fewer, but this year we had a good isår [ice year]. And it could be seen on the fat bears, he says.” [my bold]

Jon Aars with a polar bear on the Barents Sea ice.

Jon Aars, with a polar bear on Barents Sea ice 2015.

Here is another, hard-hitting comment from Magnus Andersen, also via Google-translate, that is not hitting western media outlets:
Reality is not as simple as this photo” (16 September 2015)

People want simple solutions and quick answers

“Biologist Magnus Andersen at the Norwegian Polar Institute says he is not surprised that people react to the image that is now spreading on Facebook, but says at the same time that it is oversimplified to put such a simple observation in the context of climate change.

The reality is probably much more complex, but it’s often the way it is in social media – people want simple solutions and fast answers, says Andersen.

The first thing that happens with older animals is that they have difficulty in obtaining food. Now, I know [SJC -perhaps “don’t know] of the history of the animal depicted, but I’m guessing it’s an old individual, and who may have come in a negative spiral. It is the course of nature, and really nothing surprising that old bears are dying of hunger.

What people often do not think of is that the condition of a polar bear population is much more dependent on the extent to which children [young bears] survive, not how long the older animals stays alive.” [my bold]

Recently, IUCN PBSG member Geoff York and former WWF employee (although identified in the article as “senior director of conservation” for the activist group Polar Bears International) did speak out (CBC News 17 September 2015):

“When you get claims that this picture of this particular bear is evidence of climate change then you’ve crossed a bridge too far.”

But also applauded the popularization of the photo as a conservation tool and said, sort of, that maybe she was partly right.

Kerstin Langenberger, who promoted the photo of the emaciated injured polar bear as an icon of global warming, is quoted in the same article (Photographer of ‘horribly thin’ polar bear hopes to inspire climate change fight) as saying:

“I wanted to reach people. I wanted to send a message and get a reaction, but I didn’t expect it to be so big,” she said.

She’s getting a lot of attention but in part because a lot of people are seeing that she and others are appealing to emotions, not scientific evidence or rational thought.

Barents Sea with Franz Josef Land

More reports on problems with the Barents Sea population survey noted below, in which the Russians declined participation (meaning bears in the critical Franz Josef Land region will remain uncounted):

Polar bears suffer from cooling of Russia-NATO relations” (25 August 2015, EurActivFrance)
Russian bear shuns Norwegian research” (19 August 2015, Barents Observer)
Norwegian-Russian bear census expedition canceled” (17 July 2015, Svalbardposten)
Norwegian-Russian polar bear project may crash” (5 July 2015, Svalbardposten)

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