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Monthly Archives: October 2015 − News


Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar: con­ti­nued

This is the update on yesterday’s arti­cle (Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar). A mixed US-Ame­ri­can/Ca­na­di­an team is out try­ing to find the bear, which is known as “Andy”. The fol­lowing update from ear­lier today (Oct. 28) is from Polar Bears Inter­na­tio­nal, with addi­tio­nal comments from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen:

“… basi­cal­ly … there’s no news: The bear hasn’t been re-sigh­ted sin­ce Oct. 13th and a com­bi­ned US/Canadian team is asses­sing how to pro­ceed. To fur­ther com­pli­ca­te mat­ters, the sea ice has begun to free­ze, the bears are disper­sing from Kak­to­vik, and the col­lar is no lon­ger broad­cas­ting (if it were on the air, it would have been remo­ved ear­lier). This is a logisti­cal­ly com­plex pro­blem that they’re doing their best to resol­ve…”

Comments from Mor­ten:

“This is sad. And it rai­ses more ques­ti­ons than it ans­wers.

The com­ment that if it had been working, the col­lar “would have been remo­ved ear­lier” is a stran­ge one. Does that imply that the fate of “Andy” was known long befo­re the expe­di­ti­on was moun­ted? Does that mean that the expe­di­ti­on could have been sent out ear­lier? Does that sug­gest that the expe­di­ti­on was sent out not so much to save “Andy” as to appease the gro­wing amount of con­cer­ned peop­le?

Apart from that, now we know a litt­le (very litt­le) more.

1. We know that the col­lar is not sen­ding a signal and has not done so for a while – mea­ning that the bear is wea­ring it for abso­lute­ly not­hing.

2. And we know that unless the situa­ti­on chan­ges, “Andy” is off some­whe­re in the begin­ning of the polar night on his own, pos­si­b­ly to slow­ly die from wounds and infec­tions inflic­ted by his “instru­ment”.

This case lea­ves many, many ques­ti­ons still. Once tho­se respon­si­ble are back from their excur­si­on, we expect ans­wers.”

So far Morten’s comments. The­re will be updates on this pages as soon as the­re are any news.

The polar bear “Andy” in Alas­ka, equip­ped with and inju­red by a sci­en­ti­fic col­lar with satel­li­te trans­mit­ter, is now out on the sea ice. His chan­ces to be found and res­cued are get­ting smal­ler.

Male polar bear Andy with collar and injuries

Source: Infor­ma­ti­on from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen / Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear

Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar

Every year, a lar­ge num­ber of polar bears is seda­ted and mar­ked by sci­en­tists in various parts of the Arc­tic. Sam­ples are taken and some of the bears are equip­ped with col­lars that have satel­li­te trans­mit­ters to fol­low their jour­neys. This is usual­ly only done with fema­le polar bears, as the males have a neck too strong and thick to mount the col­lars, which would be lost quick­ly or hurt the bear and even cau­se dif­fi­cul­ties while swal­lowing food and breat­hing. It has so far been com­mon­ly assu­med in public that only fema­le polar bears are mar­ked this way and col­lars are gene­ral­ly not atta­ched to male polar bears.

As it tur­ned out recent­ly, rea­li­ty may be dif­fe­rent, pos­si­b­ly alrea­dy for years. Near Kak­ti­vik in Alas­ka, on the coast of the arc­tic Beau­fort Sea, a male polar bear wea­ring a col­lar has been seen and pho­to­gra­phed. The col­lar is cut­ting into the skin, causing visi­ble inju­ry and most likely pain.

It is belie­ved that the bear has been seda­ted and mar­ked by sci­en­tists in Cana­da. it is said that male polar bears have been equip­ped with col­lars alrea­dy for some time on an expe­ri­men­tal basis. The col­lars are sup­po­sed to drop off auto­ma­ti­cal­ly after a while, which may be half a year. It is pos­si­ble that this does not always work in time. It is also pos­si­ble, actual­ly qui­te likely, that polar bears can put on a lot of weight in short time when they have access to lar­ge amounts of food, for examp­le when a dead wha­le is stran­ded on the beach. On the arc­tic coasts of Cana­da and Alas­ka, polar bears some­ti­mes find wha­le car­cas­ses from indi­ge­nous hun­ting near Inu­it sett­le­ments. This is unpre­dic­ta­ble, accord­ing to rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties. The­se events do inde­ed not occur on regu­lar inter­vals, but they are well known and not rare, so they have to be expec­ted and accoun­ted for at any time.

In the USA inclu­ding Alas­ka, the United Sta­tes Fish & Wild­life Ser­vices (USFWS) is the aut­ho­ri­ty respon­si­ble for mana­ging and pro­tec­ting mari­ne wild­life inclu­ding polar bears. Accord­ing to the USFWS, the polar bear is moni­to­red, but resour­ces are not avail­ab­le to help it. May­be moti­va­ti­on to take action is limi­ted as the bear recei­ved the col­lar most likely in Cana­da.

The actu­al case seems to have been known local­ly alrea­dy for mon­ths and it is now get­ting public atten­ti­on. Inte­res­ted indi­vi­du­als are approa­ching the USFWS, adding pres­su­re to help the bear and release it from the col­lar. More about the pre­sent dis­cus­sion, inclu­ding con­ta­ct details of rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties, on the Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear. Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen from Den­mark has taken initia­ti­ve. Mor­ten is also the aut­hor of the book Polar Bears on the edge, whe­re sci­en­ti­fic tre­at­ment of polar bears is dis­cus­sed cri­ti­cal­ly.

Sci­en­ti­fic seda­ti­on, exami­na­ti­on and mar­king of polar bears is gene­ral­ly a trau­ma­tic event for the ani­mals con­cer­ned, not to men­ti­on cases whe­re fema­le bears with cubs are trea­ted this way. See also news posts Polar bear dead after ana­es­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists (II) and Polar bear found dead in Petu­nia­buk­ta had been ana­es­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses on this web­site.

Orga­niz­a­ti­ons such as WWF and Polar Bears Inter­na­tio­nal are sup­por­ting sci­en­ti­fic work on polar bears inclu­ding satel­li­te col­lars. The dis­cus­sion about risks of this work is not new, but has not reached the gene­ral public yet.

Male polar bear in Alas­ka, equip­ped with and inju­red by a sci­en­ti­fic col­lar with satel­li­te trans­mit­ter. Nor­mal­ly, only fema­le polar bears recei­ve such col­lars.

Male polar bear with collar and injuries

Source: Infor­ma­ti­on from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen / Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear

Polar bear mother with 3 cubs has lost 2 of them

In May 2015, a polar bear fami­ly with 3 cubs has been obser­ved in Tem­pel­fjord and Bill­efjord (click here for May arti­cle on this web­site).

Triplets are very rare, twins are nor­mal. The fema­le in ques­ti­on, did, howe­ver, not have triplets for the first time: in april 2011, she had alrea­dy been caught, seda­ted and exami­ned by sci­en­tists on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen, when she had triplets. Back then, only one of three cubs sur­vi­ved in the end.

In spring 2015, the fema­le was caught and seda­ted again. At that time, her 3 cubs were so small that they were not seda­ted, but they were pre­sent during the exami­na­ti­on of their mother. Accord­ing to data from the satel­li­te trans­mit­ter on the col­lar that was atta­ched to the fema­le on the occa­si­on, the fami­ly then star­ted a remar­kab­le jour­ney nor­thwards to spend the sum­mer north of Nord­aus­t­land. Later, they retur­ned south again, cros­sing Nord­aus­t­land, Hin­lo­pen Strait and nor­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen to return to Tem­pel­fjord, whe­re the fema­le was recent­ly seen. Only one cub was still with her, the other two are appar­ent­ly lost. It is not known when and how they died, but it is com­mon that mother polar bears lose part of their off­spring during the first sum­mer or later. Access to food can be dif­fi­cult, and com­pe­ti­ti­on bet­ween the cubs can be strong then.

Polar bear fami­ly in Bill­efjord, April 2015.

Polar bear family in Billefjord

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (41/2015)

Elec­tion of the new City Coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Sunday the 4th and Mon­day the 5th of Octo­ber were elec­tion days in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. For the upco­m­ing four years the 15 mem­bers of the new City Coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re) were elec­ted. The City Coun­cil is the supre­me organ of the local government in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. 1651 elec­to­ra­tes were enti­t­led to vote, having the choice bet­ween four par­ties and their can­di­da­tes. The coun­ting of votes led to the fol­lowing preli­mi­na­ry result:

Par­tyResult in %Seats
Arbei­der­par­tiet(Ap, social demo­cra­tic)34.65
Høy­re(H, con­ser­va­ti­ve, eco­no­mic libe­ral)29.75
Venst­re(V, social-libe­ral)21.03
Mil­jø­par­tiet De Grøn­ne(MDG, envi­ron­men­tal par­ty, social-libe­ral)13.52
 

1006 valid votes were cast, accord­ing to a voter par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of 60.93 % (2011: 56.56 %). For the cal­cu­la­ti­on of the seats, both the votes for the sin­gle can­di­da­tes and for the par­ties in total are rele­vant.

For the Arbei­der­par­tiet this result is a set­back. With 7 seats so far it was the stron­gest par­ty in the pre­sent City Coun­cil pro­vi­ding the head of the local government in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Chris­tin Kristoff­er­sen. Even in the recent sur­vey from Sep­tem­ber the Arbei­der­par­tiet was clear­ly ahead with 56.5 % of the votes and 9 seats. Here the Høy­re achie­ved only 21 % (3 seats), the Venst­re 12.9 % (2 seats) and the green MDG 9.7 % (1 seat). Howe­ver, 45 % of the respondents ans­we­red that they still were unde­ci­ded, would not vote or didn´t want to ans­wer. Kristoff­er­sen had announ­ced ear­lier that she would not can­di­da­te again for ano­t­her peri­od. This time Arild Olsen is top can­di­da­te of the Arbei­der­par­tiet.

The Høy­re had 3 seats in the Coun­cil so far and was the 2nd stron­gest par­ty after the Arbei­der­par­tiet. Now the Con­ser­va­ti­ves are see­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to defi­ne the poli­tics of the upco­m­ing four years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in a coali­ti­on with the Venst­re and to install their top can­dita­de Tor­ge­ir Prytz as head of the local government. Both par­ties alrea­dy announ­ced the inten­ti­on to go into coali­ti­on nego­tia­ti­ons. Tog­e­ther they would have a majo­ri­ty of 1 seat in the Coun­cil. Such a coali­ti­on might sound stran­ge out­side of Nor­way (Høy­re means ‚right-wing‘ and Venst­re ‚left-wing‘). But in the Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­cal land­s­cape the­se two par­ties are not too far away from each other (see abo­ve, Venst­re is not a socia­list or com­mu­nist par­ty as the name might sug­gest).

Venst­re and the green MDG were not repre­sen­ted in the City Coun­cil befo­re. Espe­cial­ly for the MDG the repre­sen­ta­ti­on in the Coun­cil is a signi­fi­cant suc­cess. With 13.5 % of the votes and 2 seats in the Coun­cil the group in Lon­gye­ar­by­en would be the most suc­cess­ful group of the envi­ron­men­tal par­ty in who­le Nor­way so far. The top can­di­da­te of the MDG Hel­ga Bårds­dat­ter Kris­ti­an­sen alrea­dy pro­mi­sed an acti­ve oppo­si­ti­on poli­cy.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is now get­ting a new city coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re). A lot is chan­ging cur­r­ent­ly in the litt­le city.

Longyearbyen

Source: Lokals­ty­re, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Drastic downs­ca­ling of coal mining indus­try

The low coal pri­ces on the world mar­ket make life even more dif­fi­cult than expec­ted for the Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK). Alrea­dy in spring, the Nor­we­gi­an government, which is owning almost all shares, had to help the SNSK out of trou­ble with a loan. Due to the dra­ma­tic situa­ti­on, the manage­ment has deci­ded to take some drastic steps:

  • The pro­duc­tion in the mines at Sveagru­va (Svea Nord and the new mine in Lunck­ef­jel­let) will be stop­ped. A mini­mum crew of about 50 miners will ensu­re main­tai­nan­ce to keep the opti­on of future pro­duc­tion avail­ab­le.
  • If the coal pri­ces do not reco­ver until 2019, the mines at Sveagru­va will be clo­sed.
  • The pro­duc­tion in the smal­ler mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en will be incre­a­sed. 45 miners (until now 24) are sup­po­sed to pro­du­ce 155,000 tons per year (cur­r­ent­ly 70,000) .
  • Fur­ther occur­ren­ces near mine 7 will be pre­pa­red for mining to ensu­re a pro­duc­tion peri­od of at least 10 years.
  • The admi­nis­tra­ti­on will be down­si­zed.

The main­tai­nan­ce mode in Sveagru­va will requi­re an annu­al bud­get of 95 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner, which will have to come from the owner (the gover­ment), accord­ing to the plans of the manage­ment. Nego­tia­ti­ons with the government are star­ted immedia­te­ly.

Altog­e­ther, the num­ber of jobs in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Sveagru­va will be decre­a­sed by 150. Tog­e­ther with tho­se jobs alrea­dy lost recent­ly, the num­ber of employees is down­si­zed by 150 wit­hin 18 mon­ths.

Many peop­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are worried now about the future. A lot of jobs in many com­pa­nies still depend on mining, and the fear is the­re that a mas­si­ve downs­ca­ling of the coal indus­try and rela­ted eco­no­my would have a major nega­ti­ve impact on the local eco­no­my and socie­ty. The poli­ti­cal deba­te about the future eco­no­mi­c­al struc­tu­re of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has star­ted. One of the mea­su­res to fight the eco­no­mi­c­al pro­blems is the envi­sa­ged incre­a­se of the har­bour faci­li­ties.

Facing a dark future: miner in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

miner in Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (36/2015)

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