A cross-Arctic comparison shows that the US has been the most aggressive in designating polar bears and their main prey species as ‘threatened with extinction’ due to the predicted effects of human-caused (“anthropogenic”) global warming (AGW), even though the US has the least amount of sea ice habit of all circumpolar nations.
I’ve made a chart listing the conservation status of these species across all Arctic nations (Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark (for Greenland) and the USA), as well as the one international body that considers the conservation status of all species (International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN).
Oddly, the IUCN considers the polar bear vulnerable due to future threats from predicted sea ice losses but not ringed seals or bearded seals. This situation highlights the capricious nature of the use of “future threats” (almost exclusively based on predictions of AGW) as a valid criteria for evaluating the conservation status of Arctic marine mammals. It also suggests why the IUCN has tightened considerably its rules regarding this practice.
Posted in Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged AGW, Arctic nations, arctic seals, bearded seal, conservation, global warming, IUCN, North Pole, polar bear, Polar Bear Specialist Group, ringed seal, threatened with extinction, walrus
Soviet soldier in a tank, feeding condensed milk to polar bears c. 1950 (i.imgur.com), via Redditt 16 November 2014.
“Sponsored by the Russian Dash Cams Association. Reminding you to drive your tank safely and avoid hitting polar bears.”
Apparently, polar bears are attracted to tanks as they are to ships and submarines, which made them easy targets for men with guns. This, along with the rather extensive use of so-called ‘set guns’ (a baited apparatus fixed with a loaded shotgun), led to a significant decline of polar bears in the U.S.S.R. and the Barents Sea area by the 1950s. See also, “The slaughter of polar bears that rarely gets mentioned (ca. 1890-1930)”
This was the real threat to polar bears and it was successfully halted by international agreement in 1973. We should not forget that polar bears are a conservation success story.
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
Here are two more priceless quotes from the minutes of the last meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) – on issues with sea ice percentages used to define “ice-free” and the problem of bears with collars showing up on sea ice that, according to ice data, does not exist. These quotes are in addition to the ones I posted earlier this week (here and here).
See the original document for the context here.
Continue reading →
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic, breakup, conservation status, freeze-up, ice-free, IUCN, PBSG, satellite radio collars, sea ice concentration, sea ice experts, Seth Cherry, threatened with extinction, tracking polar bears
Here’s a significant turn of events involving a story I reported on earlier: a US District Court judge ruled on Friday 25 July 2014 that the Bering/Chukchi Sea population of bearded seal (Erignatha barbatus) was improperly given ‘threatened’ species status in 2012. Judge Beistline ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “to correct deficiencies in its study of the population.“
Bearded seals are important secondary prey species for polar bears in some regions of the Arctic (Thiemann et al. 2008), after ringed seals (which were also listed as ‘threatened’ in 2012).
Among other points made in his written decision, the judge is quoted as saying (reported here):
“A listing under the ESA based upon speculation, that provides no additional action intended to preserve the continued existence of the listed species, is inherently arbitrary and capricious.” [my emphasis]
“Arbitrary and capricious” — now that’s a slap-down. He also reportedly called the ESA listing “an abuse of discretion.”
The question is, how often have other ESA listings – not challenged in court – been based on similarly arbitrary and capricious decisions that also involved an abuse of discretion?
More quotes from Judge Beistline’s decision, and reaction to it, below.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska District Court judge, arbitrary, bearded seal, conservation status, declining sea ice, ESA, Judge Beistline, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, polar bear prey, predictions, threat to survival, threatened with extinction
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
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