Tag Archives: Inuit

Photographer’s claims that Inuit hunting is unsustainable are not supported

A campaign by an anti-hunting Norwegian photographer to destroy the market for legally-hunted polar bears in Canada makes a few disturbingly false claims and an article at National Geographic in which he is quoted further distorts the picture of polar bear conservation. I understand that some people object to hunting and wish more people felt like they do – but this sort of argument is unlikely to sway any but the most gullible.

Cover photo Ole J Liodden small web

Norwegian photographer Ole Liodden apparently has a master’s degree in “nature management and environmental policy“. He takes fabulous polar bear pictures (I purchased one of them, above, for the cover of my novel, EATEN) but his crusade to ban hunting and trade in polar bear products world-wide has lead him to misrepresent essential facts, which is no way to win an argument. A National Geographic writer and several polar bear specialists have provided additional spin and used it as an excuse to promote their failed prophesies that polar bears are doomed: “Should polar bear hunting be legal? It’s complicated” (28 May 2019).

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Even with Inuit lives at stake, polar bear specialists make unsupported claims

The standoff between Inuit and polar bear specialists regarding the status of polar bears in Canada is not going to end until someone in authority demands to see the data scientists insist contradict Inuit knowledge.

Macleans to kill a polar bear headline 21 April 2019

An article in Maclean’s Magazine (15 April 2019), entitled “To Kill a Polar Bear”, explores some of the feelings and opinions of folks involved but fails to ask whether the data support the rhetoric advanced by scientists. Author Aaron Hutchins takes the scientists at their word, that seeing more bears than 20 years ago is all because of lack of sea ice. However, from what I’ve seen, he might as well trust a fox in a hen house.

Ian Stirling is quoted by Hutchins insisting that polar bears in Western Hudson Bay continue to suffer from the effects of declining sea ice, without mentioning that ice cover has been essentially static on Hudson Bay since at least 2001 (Castro de al Guardia et al. 2017; Lunn et al. 2016) and fall freeze up dates for the last two years were earlier than most years in the 1980s:

“This year saw the seventh-lowest Arctic sea ice levels since the National Snow and Ice Data Center first started gathering satellite data 40 years ago, with the long-term trend clearly downwards. And the negative effects on polar bears can be clearly seen in the science, says Stirling, pointing to the closely studied subpopulation along western Hudson Bay: “They’re losing body condition. Reproductive rates have dropped. Survival rates of young have plummeted. Every indication you would expect from a declining population is there.”

However, as I’ve pointed out previously (last year and in 2012), there are no recent data published that support these claims: the only information that exists is at least 25 years old. And the fact that no such data have been published suggests strongly that it either does not exist or does not show what Stirling claims it shows.

Yet, the government of Canada is willing to bet the lives of Inuit on their belief that polar bear specialists would never stretch the truth to qualify for government grants.

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OK in the 80s but not now: ‘seeing more polar bears means there are more bears’

Wait for it, it will come: backlash from polar bear scientists for a statement by an Inuk bear safety guide in Labrador, reported by the CBC yesterday. The guide said there are more polar bears now than there were 25 years ago based on the fact that he is seeing more bears and that more bears mean more trouble with bears, including attacks on people. As I point out in my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, only in the 1980s did biologists admit that seeing more bears meant there were actually more bears.

polar-bear-black-tickle_Edwin Clark submitted to CBC no date

This bear visited Black Tickle in Labrador a few years back. Edwin Clark photo.

It has not been OK anywhere else in the world over the last few years to suggest that seeing more bears meant more bears, whether you were Inuk or not – whether describing a subpopulation that’s officially ‘increasing’ or not.

According to biologist Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta), who famously said last year that ‘you can’t equate seeing more bears with there being more bears,’ all of the increased sightings and problems with bears in Labrador and Newfoundland are due to poor ice conditions. His colleague Ian Stirling (also University of Alberta) similarly puts the blame for increased polar bear/human conflicts and fatal attacks in Nunavut on a ‘shortage of ice‘. For polar bear specialists, it’s always ‘less ice‘, never ‘more bears.’

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State of the Polar Bear Report 2018: Polar bears continue to thrive

Press Release 27 February 2019, International Polar Bear Day

New Report: Polar Bears Continue To Thrive

State PB 2018 cover 27 Feb 2019

Inuit paying the price of rising bear populations

The State of the Polar Bear Report for 2018, published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, confirms that polar bears are continuing to thrive, despite recent reductions in sea ice levels. This finding contradicts claims by environmentalists and some scientists that falls in sea ice would wipe out bear populations.

The report’s author, zoologist Dr Susan Crockford, says that there is now very little evidence to support the idea that the polar bear is threatened with extinction by climate change.

We now know that polar bears are very resourceful creatures. They have made it through warm periods in the past and they seem to be taking the current warming in their stride too”.

In fact, it is the human residents of the Arctic who seem to have most to worry about. With more and more bears on the landscape at all times of year, there have been worrying reports of people being threatened, mauled and even killed, particularly from Nunavut, in the Canadian north.

As Dr Crockford explains,

The people of Nunavut are not seeing starving, desperate bears – quite the opposite. Yet polar bear specialists are saying these bears are causing problems because they don’t have enough sea ice to feed properly. The facts on the ground make their claims look silly, including the abundance of fat bears. Residents are pushing their government for a management policy that makes protection of human life the priority.

UPDATE: Read my opinion piece in Canada’s Financial Post here.

Key findings [Read the whole thing here]

· Data published since 2017 show that global polar bear numbers have continued to increase slightly since 2005, despite the fact that summer sea ice in 2018 was again at a low level not expected until mid-century: the predicted 67% decline in polar bear numbers did not occur.

· Despite marked declines in summer sea ice, Chukchi Sea polar bears continue to thrive: reports from the first population-size estimate for the region, performed in 2016, show bears in the region are abundant (almost 3000 individuals), healthy and reproducing well.

· National Geographic received such a profound backlash from its widely viewed ‘this is what climate change looks like ’ starving polar bear video, released in late 2017, that in 2018 it made a formal public apology for spreading misinformation.

· In Canada, where perhaps two-thirds of the world’s polar bears live, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC) decided in 2018 to continue to list the polar bear as a species of ‘Special concern’ rather than upgrade to ‘Threatened.’

· Polar bear attacks made headlines in 2018: two fatal attacks in Nunavut, Canada and a narrowly averted death-by-mauling in northern Svalbard caught the world by surprise.

Citation: Crockford, S.J. 2019. State of the Polar Bear Report 2018. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 32, London.

 

Biologists escalate conflict over Inuit management of polar bear populations

Yesterday, two polar bear specialists and an inept freelance journalist poured gasoline on the already-volatile issue of polar bear management in Nunavut.

Quote of the day: “I think there’s a reasonable chance that the last polar bear in Canada will be shot by an Inuk hunter.” [Andrew Derocher, University of Alberta]

Polar bear Aug 2017 near area where June 19 2018 bear was spotted Gordy Kidlapik

You have to read it to believe how bad the Yale Environment 360 article by Gloria Dickie (19 December 2018) really is: “As polar bear attacks increase in the Arctic, a search for solutions.” [reprinted 26 December at PBS] The title suggests a balanced treatment of the issue but the reality is far from that: gross inaccuracies in the descriptions of the two fatal attacks that took place this summer that can only be explained by sloppy research and what struck me as unbelievably nasty and racist commentary by polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher. But decide for yourself.

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Canadian polar bears still not threatened with extinction says conservation committee

At recent meeting of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), biologists decided to continue to list the polar bear as a species of ‘Special Concern.’ About 2/3 of the world’s polar bears live in Canada and the balance of all evidence (including Inuit knowledge) indicate the bears are not threatened with extinction. The bears have held this status since 1991.

Polar bears_Gordon Court_Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada Dec 2018

Details from the 3 December 2018 press release below.

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Nunavut government has a draft plan to deal with unsafe numbers of polar bears

In the news today: “Nunavut Draft Plan Says There Are Actually Too Many Polar Bears In Territory” (CTV News via The Canadian Press, Bob Weber, 12 November 2018).

Polar Bear seaweed_Lorraine Brandson Churchill_taken Nov 2012

Polar bear eating seaweed near Churchill, Manitoba (November 2012). Lorraine Brandson photo.

From the Canadian Press story:

“There are too many polar bears in parts of Nunavut and climate change hasn’t yet affected any of them, says a draft management plan from the territorial government that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking.

The proposed plan — which is to go to public hearings in Iqaluit on Tuesday — says that growing bear numbers are increasingly jeopardizing public safety and it’s time Inuit knowledge drove management policy.

“Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,” says the document, the result of four years of study and public consultation.”

I’ve noted previously that there were two fatal polar bear attacks in Hudson Bay this summer. Both of them happened outside local communities and both happened early during the ice-free period (when bears would have been onshore for only a few weeks). Neither incident can be reasonably blamed on lack of sea ice, an extended ice-free period, or lack of management of problem polar bears within or near communities. The bears involved in the August attack were described as being in good condition.

Update 13 November 2018: See The Guardian‘s take on this story, by a different writer. Despite potential to talk to other polar bear specialists about this issue, only Derocher is quoted. Is no one else talking? “Polar bear numbers in Canadian Arctic pose threat to Inuit, controversial report says” (The Guardian, 13 November 2018).

Update 14 November 2018: See a new CBC story on Inuit perspectives on this issue. “Nunavut community says Inuit lives need to be protected over polar bear population” (CBC News, 14 November 2018).

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