This is the third year in a row that freeze-up of Western Hudson Bay (WH) ice has come earlier than the average of 16 November documented in the 1980s. Reports by folks on the ground near Churchill confirm polar bears are starting to move onto the sea ice that’s developing along the shore after almost 5 months on land. After five good sea ice seasons in a row for WH polar bears, this repeat of an early freeze-up means a sixth good ice season is now possible for 2019-2020.
Sadly for the tourists, however, it means the polar bear viewing season in Churchill will be ending early this year, just like it did last year and the year before.
Polar bear family on the ice off Churchill Manitoba (taken from a helicopter), courtesy Explore.org
When mothers with cubs are out on the ice (see photo above), it’s pretty certain the mass movement from land to sea ice is well underway because these family units are usually the last to leave.
UPDATE 19 November 2019: Polar Bear Alert report for 11-17 Nov (week 20) confirms that freeze-up is underway, bears are heading out on the ice and problem bears held in the ‘jail’ were released 13 November. See below.
UPDATE 6 Nov 2019: I have substantially modified this post based on receipt of the actual court documents describing the case, which is much more complicated than it appeared from the news reports quoted. Many thanks to Donna LaFramboise for passing it along! Clarifications in red, incorrect statements crossed out.
The Inuit fight in Canada with the federal government over polar bear conservation status continues. The government, led by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, reduced polar bear hunting quotas in Southern Hudson Bay only from 28 to 23, based on the results of the 2011-2012 survey. In response, Inuit groups have submitted affidavits in federal court stating that polar bears are thriving. The court dismissed the Inuit challenge even though polar bears in Canada are not considered threatened or vulnerable to extinction, and encouraged the two parties to resolve the dispute outside the court.
This arbitrary political decision by the government undermines the scientific assessment done by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and tramples Inuit rights. The dispute was about Inuit treaty rights vs. conservation concerns regarding sustainable harvest levels, not conservation impacts from climate change, and the decision did not resolve the issues of sex-selective harvesting and defense of life kills counting against harvest quotas.
Fat healthy polar bears from Southern Hudson Bay
Concerns I raised earlier this year – see here and here – regarding the Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix walrus tragedy porn episode have been vindicated by a new Attenborough BBC TV special called Seven Worlds, One Planet (Asia). It shows film footage of polar bears – taken by drones – driving walrus off the same Siberian cliff that was shown in the Netflix documentary film released in April.
Few of the reporters who covered this story bothered to investigate further despite the evidence provided by myself and others that polar bears and drones were the likely triggers for these deaths: they simply took Attenborough and the film crew at their word.
Netflix director Sophie Lanfear and cameraman Jamie McPherson insisted there were no polar bears in the vicinity at the time they shot their film footage but this was clearly not the case. They knew that bears were involved because they filmed them menacing the walrus!
It is now evident that McPherson filmed the 20 or so polar bears stalking walrus at the top of the Ryrkaypiy cliff and driving them over the edge for the BBC episode only a few days prior to filming a few walrus falling with no bears present on the cliff top for the Netflix film in September 2017. The bears were close enough when the Netflix sequence was filmed to converge immediately on the rookery to feed on carcasses once the walrus herd left the beach.
Fat, healthy polar bears (not desperately hungry ones) were indeed involved in these walrus deaths and so were drones. Lack of sea ice was not a significant factor.
UPDATE 6 November 2019: See Paul Homewood’s take on this here. Additional video added at the end.
Posted in Advocacy, Sea ice habitat, walrus
Tagged Attenborough, BBC, cliffs, deaths, drones, Lanfear, McPherson, Netflix, One Planet, polar bear, Ryrkaypi, tragedy porn, walrus
London lecture at the GWPF offices was splendid from my point of view and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves fully. Josh was there and sent his cartoonist’s perspective of the evening*:
*PS Thanks Josh and such a pleasure to finally meet you.
Posted in academic freedom, Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat, Summary, Uncategorized
Tagged catastrophe, GWPF, Josh cartoon, lecture, London, polar bear, science, sea ice, won't be silenced
This is week 15 for most polar bears onshore near Churchill in Western Hudson Bay, which means they have been onshore for almost 4 months. Still, photos being circulated are still showing bears in excellent condition and we are just waiting to see if freeze-up this year is as early as it has been for the last two years.
Misplaced eco-anxiety that kids have about polar bears starts with activist biologists like Steven Amstrup, spokesperson for an organization devoted to raising climate change alarm – and media outlets like The Guardian who help them spread fears unsupported by scientific evidence.
Fat healthy polar bear male at Kaktovik, Alaska in the Southern Beaufort Sea, September 2019, Ed Boudreau photo, with permission.
You can’t get much more over the top than these statements from Amstrup today but read carefully: it’s either opinion or factual aspects of polar bear life (“we know that the bears aren’t feeding”) made to sound like new, terrifying developments that can be blamed on climate change. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Life History, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska, Amstrup, Beaufort, catastrophe, Chukchi Sea, eco-anxiety, polar bear, Polar Bears International, population decline, predictions, sea ice, shrinking sea ice
Unbelievably wrong: A psychologist has told parents to assure their children that rising sea levels might be an immediate threat to polar bears – but not to kids in the UK. She says this is “putting things into perspective” for anxious kids but is horrifyingly and almost laughably far off the mark.
The amount of ignorance about polar bears from those who still consider the species an appropriate icon for catastrophic climate change never seems to end.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat, Summary, Uncategorized
Tagged climate anxiety, concerns, eco-anxiety, extinction, Greta Thunburg, kids, polar bear, sea ice, sea level, sick with worry, threatened