Report from Greenland: Too Much Ice Causing Polar Bears to go hungry so they are seeking food in the towns
Up to six bears were seen in the vicinity of Sisimiut - some quite close to the city. How many bears which are actually approaching Sisimiut has not been confirmed. But Maria Aarup has no doubt that on Tuesday she saw several bears near Amerloq Fjord. Fishermen have also seen a number of bears on the small islands from their trawlers as they battled ice in the harbour. Thursday morning bears were also seen at the airport and several people have seen bear tracks near the town dump.
Citizens are asked to report any bears they see to the police. If they stand in close proximity of a bear, are seriously threatened or seen a bear attack a person, they have the right to shoot. Petersen encouraged people to be careful though. Bears which are hungry lose their natural shyness. They usually stay in the water and hunt seals, but if they are hungry they come ashore and consume anything they can find.
More information in the Danish-language version here. In an email, Svend Erik Hendriksen, a certified weather observer in the Kangerlussuaq Greenland MET office, summarizes it as follows:
"Several polar bears (at least 6) located close to Sisimiut town on the West coast...To much sea ice, so they are very hungry..... Al Gore says the polar bear need more ice to survive....Now we have a lot of ice, but the polar bears are starving and find their food at the garbage dumps in towns. It's also influenced the local community, polar bear alerts keep kids away from the schools and so on.... The first one was shot at February 1st.
And here's more on what's happening in Greenland weatherwise
The ice between Canada and southwestern Greenland has reached its highest level in 15 years. Minus 30 degrees Celsius. That's how cold it's been in large parts of western Greenland where the population has been bundling up in hats and scarves. At the same time, Denmark's Meteorological Institute states that the ice between Canada and southwest Greenland right now has reached its greatest extent in 15 years.
'Satellite pictures show that the ice expansion has extended farther south this year. In fact, it's a bit past the Nuuk area. We have to go back 15 years to find ice expansion so far south. On the eastern coast it hasn't been colder than normal, but there has been a good amount of snow.'
But how do these new reports fit in with continual reports that ice in the Arctic Ocean has been melting at a record rate due to increasing temperatures? And isn't global warming at the top of the political agenda these years? If it's up to meteorologists from Denmark's Meteorological Institute, there is not anything inherently contradictory that extreme cold is replaced by higher temperatures than average. Or that melting sea ice occasionally is replaced by expanding ice sheets.
Polar Bears Are The Wrong Target Say Inuit
Canadian Inuit are opposing vigorous lobbying efforts to get the polar bear listed as "threatened" under the American Endangered Species Act. The US government has been considering the action since 2006. Now three conservation groups, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace are threatening to sue the US government to get it to proceed with the listing.
Two organizations that represent Inuit in Canada are disagreeing with the tactic of using the polar bear to try to force the American government to take action on climate change. Duane Smith, the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada) says, "I don't see how listing it as threatened will complement the sustainability of the population. It is climate change that is the problem, not the sustainable hunting of polar bears."
Some polar bears in Canada are currently hunted by American hunters, who pay well for the experience. The hunt brings more than one and half million dollars a year into small Inuit communities in the territory of Nunavut. The listing of polar bears would likely threaten that hunt, and the money it brings into the communities.
"Even with the sport hunts we use dog teams, a portion of tags also go toward subsistence harvesting, and we ensure that all the meat and other parts of the Polar Bear are fully utilized," says Smith. "Our hunters and guides benefit economically and we are able to continue with our culture, enjoy the benefits of what we use, and ensure that this is done in a responsible and sustainable manner."
At the moment, Inuit are convinced that polar bears are being hunted at sustainable levels. Whether or not that level of hunting will still be sustainable in the future, after the effects of climate change become more severe, remains to be seen.
The bottom line is that stopping people from hunting polar bears now will not protect populations of polar bears in the future. Taking action on climate change now, on the other hand, will protect populations of polar bears in the future.
Posted by John Ray