reply to post by jdub297
EDMONTON — Two of Canada's top polar bear scientists warn that recent attempts to justify an increase in the harvest of the iconic animal in western
Hudson Bay could lead to trade sanctions against Canada.
University of Alberta scientists Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher say the population is neither as "abundant" nor as "healthy" as a Nunavut Inuit
organization claimed last week when it used the preliminary results of a recent survey to justify an increase in the annual harvest.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said preliminary results from the Nunavut government survey contradict previous reports by Stirling, Derocher and other
scientists who have been tracking polar bears in this region for the past 40 years. They say it also vindicates Inuit hunters who insist there are
more bears than ever.
Suggesting that the research was "faulty," as Nunavut Tunngavik stated in a news release, is both "untrue and inflammatory," says Stirling.
"The Nunavut aerial survey estimated the population to be between 717 and 1,430. This aerial survey-based estimate is not significantly different from
the 2004 estimate of 934 bears we did, which was based on more reliable mark-recapture studies in Manitoba."
Lost in the debate, says Stirling, is the fact that the polar bears of western Hudson Bay might be producing only 20-50 per cent as many cubs as they
did 30 years ago when the bears had a month or more time to hunt seals on the sea ice.
Now that global warming is forcing the bears to spend more time on land where there is virtually no food, females are on average 30 to 40 kilograms
lighter than they were in the early 1980s and producing far fewer cubs, say Stirling. Those cubs that are born are now less likely than they were in
the past to live beyond two years, the age at which they became independent adults.
That disturbing trend, Stirling notes, is acknowledged in the latest report by the Nunavut government.
"It clearly states that relatively few cubs of the year and yearlings were observed in western Hudson Bay in comparison to the recent polar bear
surveys in Foxe Basin in 2009 and 2010."
"The report also acknowledges that average litter sizes were the lowest recorded in recent years amongst the three Hudson Bay sub-populations."
Stirling says he saw this first-hand in November when he participated in an aerial survey of polar bears waiting to return to the ice in western
Hudson Bay. In the area between the Ontario-Manitoba border and the Nelson River, he counted 107 bears, but saw only two family groups. Normally, he
would expect to see 20-25 mothers with cubs.
"No matter what the size of the polar bear population in western Hudson Bay is, reproduction and survival of cubs are probably no longer high enough
to sustain a harvest. In fact, they may not be capable of sustaining an unharvested population."
Derocher says the recent Nunavut government estimate may be inflating the numbers because the aerial survey area is greater than that covered by more
accurate long-term mark and recapture studies. It may have also included animals from the southern Hudson Bay region, which sometimes move into
western Hudson Bay.
The bottom line, he says, is that the breakup of the ice is already an average of three weeks earlier than it was only 30 years ago, freeze-up is
later, and the duration of the open water is steadily increasing. Being creatures that need ice as a platform to hunt seals, a primary source of food,
polar bears in this rapidly warming region are extremely vulnerable.
"Canada is being scrutinized internationally for its management of polar bears," says Derocher.
"That's why it's more important than ever to use sound science-based management to justify harvests. This aerial survey cannot be used to assess
population trends using any scientific method. Some comparisons are possible, but not from this interim report."
The centre submitted the petition after the Nunavut government raised the polar harvest quota to 38 last October even before the results of this
latest report came in.
This isn't the only challenge the Canadian and Nunavut governments face, notes Derocher. Canada's ability to export polar bear hides, he points out,
could be in jeopardy at the March 2013 meeting of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species."
This supports ALL the facts I brought up earlier... now you'll dismiss them as biased...
edit on 13-4-2012 by Buddha1098 because: (no reason given)
edit on 13-4-2012 by Buddha1098 because: (no reason