“The fight is over, for the time being. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to pursue an international ban on trade in polar bear products that the CITES COP17 gathering in South Africa this September.”
From a news report at NunatsiaqOnline this morning (2 May 2016) – the only news outlet so far that has carried the news (U.S. drops bid to ban international trade in polar bear products).
You may or may not agree with the practice of sport hunting for polar bears but this move is huge. For years, the US has been trying to bully the international community into accepting their warped perception of Arctic species conservation (where what computer models say might happen by 2050 trumps what is true today). Polar bear numbers have not declined due to global warming or over-hunting, and face no immediate threat of extinction.
Here is the only “announcement” made by US Fish & Wildlife, which came buried at the end of a lengthy blog post (dated 27 April 2016), which seems to indicate they have not really changed their minds but may not want to lose face by loosing again:
“Regarding polar bears, though we remain concerned about the commercial use of polar bear hides as an additional threat to the species, we are not pursuing increased CITES protections at this time. We are putting our resources into working in collaboration with other polar bear range states to address climate change and mitigate its impacts on the polar bear as the overwhelming threat to the long-term future of the species.” [my bold]
Recent research (Crawford and Quakenbush 203; Rode et al. 2014) has shown that sea ice declines in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas have made life better for ringed seals, not worse (as predicted) – ringed seals are in better condition and reproducing better than they were in the 1970s. Why? Ringed seals do most of their feeding in the open-water period (Young and Ferguson 2013), so a longer open-water season means fatter, healthier seals and more fat pups for polar bears to hunt the following spring.
However, Arctic ringed seals (as well as bearded seals) were designated as ‘threatened’ by the USA in 2012 under the Endangered Species Act, based on predicted ice and snow declines due to prophesied global warming. These listings are all about future threats, with no pretense of on-going harm.
Virtually no other Arctic nation has taken this step for Arctic seals — see previous discussion here. There are lots of ringed seals — an estimated 3-4 million world-wide and about 1.7 million within the critical habitat proposed by NOAA (see below).
As weak as the case for listing polar bears as ‘threatened’ has proven to be, the case for listing ringed and bearded seals is even more feeble (a judge has already sent the bearded seal listing back to the drawing board).
Posted in Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged bearded seal, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, conservation, critical habitat, endangered species, future threats, global warming, IUCN, models, NOAA, polar bear, predictions, public hearings, ringed seal, sea ice, threatened
This powerful, balanced documentary, with a focus on the bears of Western Hudson Bay, can now be watched online. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) production, it includes interviews with polar bear biologists Mitch Taylor (screen-cap below) and Seth Stapleton – juxtaposed with statements from outspoken polar bear conservation advocate Andrew Derocher.
I was not mentioned by name (making me “she who cannot be named” yet again?) but host Reg Sherren did discuss the contents of the email I received from PBSG chairman Dag Vongraven earlier this summer about their proposed clarification to the global population estimate (and posted here).
It can be viewed online at “CBC Player,” in its entirety (45 minutes long), without commercials – see it http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Absolutely%20Canadian/Absolutely%20Manitoba/ID/2499492515/?cmp=rss
I can’t guarantee those outside Canada will be able to view it but I watched it Sunday night (August 31) from British Columbia. It’s well worth the time.
[Aired originally on “Absolutely Manitoba” (Season 2014, Episode 5, Aug 30, 2014), by Reg Sherren. See announcement article here]
[Note: the “Sharon Crockford” interviewed in the film is no relation to me, as far as I know!]
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged CBC, Dag Vongraven, declining sea ice, Derocher, documentary, endangered species, global population estimate, Mitch Taylor, polar bears, politics of polar bears, Reg Sherren, Seth Stapleton, threatened with extinction, western hudson bay
From CBC News (28 August 2014):
“The Politics of Polar Bears” airs Saturday, August 30, at 7 p.m. on CBC Manitoba. (CBC)
Which of the following statements do you think is true?
A) Polar bear populations have been in decline for some time
B) Polar bear populations are healthy
The answer may surprise you
“In The Politics of Polar Bears, Reg Sherren will pick his way through the message track to help you decide what is really happening with the largest land carnivore on the planet.”
See the rest here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/are-polar-bears-an-endangered-species-1.2747376?cmp=rss
[Includes a short video trailer]
Will we finally see some balance?
UPDATE: Reg Sherren tells me that “A shorter version will air next Tuesday on The National” an hour-long news and current affairs CBC program which can be viewed live online 9-10PM ET.
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.
UPDATED 18 May 2015 – see below.
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
In a previous post I noted:
In 2009, for the first time, the polar bear biologists that make up the IUCN’s Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) invited four professional advocates – not one or two, but four – to their exclusive, once-every-four-years meeting of top polar bear biologists (called “delegates”) from the world’s Arctic nations (Canada, Russia, USA, Greenland/Denmark and Norway) – two from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and two from Polar Bears International (PBI).
In that post, I mentioned that there was an “exclusive members-only meeting” scheduled for October 24-27, 2013.
Well, I just came across a notice on the PBSG website that tells us what went on at that meeting.
The Polar Specialist Group (PBSG) voted unanimously to embrace World Wildlife Fund activist Geoff York and Polar Bears International activist Steve Amstrup as delegates with full voting rights until 2016. This is a first: never before have employees of activist organizations been made full member-delegates of this formerly exclusive organization.
With this move, the PBSG are telling the world that they are an advocate association first and a scientific organization second.