Demographic and traditional knowledge perspectives on the current status of Canadian polar bear subpopulations. 2016 (in press). Jordan York, Martha Dowsley, Adam Cornwell, Miroslaw Kuc and Mitchell Taylor. Ecology and Evolution 6(9):2897-2924. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2030
Take home quote:
“We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis. We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present.”
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Canada, climate change, facts, Mitch Taylor, polar bear, population status, predictions, projections, sea ice
My request to Environment Canada in early December 2014 for the documents supporting their polar bear status maps has finally generated results.
In an email dated 2 March 2015, I received the document produced by the EC Polar Bear Technical Committee (PBTC). I waited to see if it would be appended to the webpage where the maps were posted last year (reported here and here). However, as of today, that has not happened, so I am posting it here. There are some rather striking differences that may surprise you.
UPDATE 22 March 2015: A copy of the letter from the Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service that accompanied the document below, which I forgot to include, is here. It states that the once a new status table has been compiled (provided below), “it is reviewed by the Polar Bear Administrative Committee and then becomes a public document.” The implication is that the reviewed document has not yet been produced.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged baffin bay, Canada, declining population, Environment Canada, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, Northern Beaufort Sea, PBTC, polar bear, Polar Bear Technical Committee, population estimates, sea ice, Southern Beaufort Sea, USGS
Earlier this year we had polar bear penis bones supposedly breaking due to environmental toxins; this week we have their brains damaged.
The March 15 ScienceNordic story (“Chemical pollution is causing brain damage in polar bears”) came complete with a photo of a bear (copied below, provided by research co-author Rune Dietz) that is presumably meant to convey what a “brain damaged” polar bear might look like — if not, perhaps another photo would have been a better choice?
Except, the research only showed there theoretically might be damage but the researchers didn’t bother looking for it before shouting out their findings. All about the scary message, these folks: the very large uncertainties and speculation in their research be damned.
Posted in Advocacy, Pollution, Sea ice habitat
Tagged brain damage, Canada, chemicals, climate change, Derocher, environmental contaminants, global warming, Hamilton, last refuge, media hype, Pederson, polar bear, predictions, sea ice decline, Sonne, threatened, toxins, worst-case scenario
An editorial in the Edmonton Journal this morning (“Stand on guard for polar bears”) takes a most extraordinary position: that the results of two recent papers of dubious value should motivate Canada to create more jobs for polar bear biologists, “protect” the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (from what, they don’t say), and galvanize Canada’s position with respect to curtailing carbon dioxide emissions. In that order.
Edmonton Journal editorial photo 22 January 2015. Munich Zoo bears.
First, the unnamed editors1 say: “This country needs more eyes and ears monitoring the health, numbers and locations of its polar bear populations.”
Why would they come to that conclusion? They quote University of Alberta’s Andrew Derocher (who supervises a number of students doing polar bear research in Western Hudson Bay):
“If Canada was doing the right thing, we’d have extensive monitoring,” University of Alberta polar bear researcher Andrew Derocher said to the Journal in late 2014.”
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged advocacy, Canada, climate change, Derocher, ESA, future threats, global warming, Hamilton, Hawkins, IPCC AR5, jobs, journalists, last refuge, Peacock, polar bear, population assessments, predictions, sea ice decline, threatened, worst-case scenario
According to maps dated June 2014, Environment Canada (EC) has changed the trend status of several Canadian subpopulations — without any announcement or publicly-available documents explaining the basis of the changes.
Figure 1. Environment Canada’s “Map 4: Series of Circumpolar Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Trend Maps 2010, 2013 & 2014.” Original here.
And would it surprise you to learn that virtually all of these status changes reveal more good news about polar bears?
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged Canada, conservation status, Davis Strait, Environment Canada, good news, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, Nick Lunn, PBSG, polar bear, Polar Bear Technical Committee, population estimate, Southern Beaufort, trends, western hudson bay
The Center for Biological Diversity has failed in its bid to use NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) to pressure Canada to list polar bears as a species ‘threatened’ with extinction — wrapping up a story I wrote about twice last year (here and here).
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.