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Home → June, 2015

Monthly Archives: June 2015 − News


Glau­cous gulls: The popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is under pres­su­re

Rese­ar­chers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te repor­ted about a signi­fi­cant decli­ne of the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on on Bear Island, the most important bree­ding area for glau­cous gulls in Sval­bard and the Bar­ents Sea. During the past few deca­des a per­ma­nent decli­ne of the popu­la­ti­on was reco­gni­zed on the island. An exten­ded moni­to­ring shall now find out if this trend can be con­fir­med for other regi­ons of Sval­bard.

Bes­i­des fac­tors like food shor­ta­ge and cli­ma­tic chan­ges the rea­son for the decli­ne is more and more seen in the bird´s incre­a­sing con­ta­mi­na­ti­on with envi­ron­men­tal toxins (hea­vy metals, PCBs, fluo­ri­ne, …). The birds recei­ve envi­ron­men­tal toxins with their food and accu­mu­la­te them for examp­le in their brains and livers whe­re they affect the animal´s health. On Bear Island con­ti­nuous­ly dead and dying birds with a high con­ta­mi­na­ti­on were found. In pre­vious stu­dies Nor­we­gi­an rese­ar­chers found out that glau­cous gulls with a low con­ta­mi­na­ti­on sur­vi­ved with a rela­tively high rate of 91.5 % while only 40-50% of tho­se with a high con­ta­mi­na­ti­on sur­vi­ved the cur­rent sea­son (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Glau­cous gulls threa­tened by envi­ron­men­tal toxins from March 2012). As pre­d­a­tors, stan­ding at the top of the food chain, glau­cous gulls also give a good indi­ca­ti­on for the con­di­ti­on of the eco­sys­tem they live in.

On the Nor­we­gi­an Red List of Threa­tened Spe­ci­es the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is cur­r­ent­ly lis­ted as ‘near threa­tened’ (‘nær truet’). If the alar­ming trend on Bear Island will be con­fir­med for the who­le of Sval­bard, the sta­tus might be upgraded to ‘end­an­ge­red’ (‘truet’). Obser­va­tions in Ice­land and Cana­da also docu­men­ted a signi­fi­cant decli­ne of the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on while the popu­la­ti­on in Green­land, Alas­ka and Rus­sia seems to be sta­ble. But for the­se are­as, and espe­cial­ly for Rus­sia, the data­ba­se is not suf­fi­ci­ent.

Glau­cous gull in Spits­ber­gen, the popu­la­ti­on ist under pres­su­re.

Eismoewe

Source: Nor­sk Polar­in­sti­tutt

Polar bear eats dol­phin: nor­mal or not?

Pho­tos are cur­r­ent­ly cir­cu­la­ting in media that show how a polar bear is eating the car­cass of a White-bea­ked dol­phin. Both arti­cles and comments that come with the­se pho­tos are rea­son for some exten­ded comments on the event.

The first obser­va­ti­on was made in April 2014 by Jon Aars, polar bear rese­ar­cher in the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, and his sci­en­tists, in Raudfjord, whe­re they found a polar bear that was eating a dead White-bea­ked dol­phin. They had not obser­ved how exact­ly the dol­phin had died. In the fol­lowing time up to the sum­mer, several other bears were seen eating more dol­phins, but all fur­ther obser­va­tions rela­te to the same event in the same area.

White-bea­ked dol­phins are com­mon in the Bar­ents Sea inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen waters, but tend to stay at open sea, away from coas­tal waters, and are accord­in­gly not often seen. This con­tri­bu­tes to the wide­ly belie­ved impres­si­on that the­re are no dol­phins in the Arc­tic. This is not true. The state­ment that their “sud­den” pre­sence the­re has to be lin­ked to cli­ma­te chan­ge is obvious­ly wrong, they have been the­re alrea­dy for a long time, without any link to the pre­sent cli­ma­te chan­ge. The­re are, howe­ver, obser­va­tions of White-bea­ked dol­phins in fjords.

It is safe to assu­me that a group of White-bea­ked dol­phins was trap­ped by drift ice in Raudfjord that was blown in the­re by nort­her­ly winds during the days befo­re the first obser­va­ti­on was made. Insi­de the fjord, the dol­phins were for­ced to sur­face regu­lar­ly at small holes in the ice to breath. The­re, they are easy prey for polar bears, who often hunt seals in a very simi­lar way. Polar bears can kill seals instant­ly by hit­ting them with the paw or bit­ing them into the head. The­re is now rea­son why they should not be able to do the same with dol­phins, which are of simi­lar size, once they are for­ced to sur­face in ice simi­lar­ly to seals.

Polar bears are very well known as oppor­tu­nistic fee­ders, which means they will eat almost anything they come across as long as they can get it down. It is no sur­pri­se that they take dol­phins when they can get hold of them. It would actual­ly be very stran­ge if they didn’t.

It is cer­tain­ly true that polar bears do usual­ly not eat dol­phins. This is due to the simp­le fact that dol­phins nor­mal­ly stay in open water, whe­re polar bears are not able to catch them.

If it is now sta­ted that polar bears, who can’t hunt their usu­al prey (seals) now becau­se of cli­ma­te chan­ge, are for­ced to chan­ge to dol­phins, which – again due to cli­ma­te chan­ge – have moved fur­ther north, the­re are obvious­ly several very dif­fi­cult, if not plain­ly wrong, assump­ti­ons invol­ved. The obser­va­ti­on rather means that man has not yet seen ever­ything that occa­sio­nal­ly hap­pens in natu­re, espe­cial­ly in very remo­te are­as in dif­fi­cult sea­sons and with ani­mals which are very dif­fi­cult to fol­low. Espe­cial­ly when it comes to qui­te rare events.

Polar bear sci­en­tist Jon Aars is quo­ted say­ing that White-bea­ked dol­phins may beco­me an important food source for a smal­ler num­ber of spe­cia­li­zed polar bears. This lacks an explana­ti­on how the­se spe­cia­li­zed hun­ters should get hold of tho­se dol­phins on a more or less regu­lar basis, at least more than during a once in a life­time occa­si­on due to rare cir­cum­s­tan­ces. Con­si­de­ring this and the fact that this is, so far, based on only one obser­ved event, it seems a some­what far-reaching hypo­the­sis. (The­re is a num­ber of pho­tos taken on several oppor­tu­nities, but all of them show the same group of polar bears fee­ding on the same group of dead dol­phins in the same area).

Con­clu­si­on: this is cer­tain­ly a rare event and an even more rare obser­va­ti­on, which is, howe­ver, by no means necessa­ri­ly lin­ked to cli­ma­te chan­ge, but due to an unusu­al con­stel­la­ti­on of cir­cum­s­tan­ces.

A polar bear fee­ding on a White-bea­ked dol­phin. Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen, July 2014 © Samu­el Blanc.

Polar bear eats dolphin

Source: Polarresearch.net

Noor­der­licht: last sea­son as “ship in the ice”

SV Noor­der­licht, the two mast sai­ling ship ori­gi­nal­ly built in Ger­ma­ny as fireship Kalk­grund and in Dut­ch owners­hip a regu­lar and beau­ti­ful sight in Spits­ber­gen waters for many years now, is known to many as the “ship in the ice”.

When the ice sett­led in Tem­pel­fjord, Noor­der­licht was par­ked the­re and fro­zen in inten­tio­nal­ly. As soon as the ice was strong enough, the ship could be visi­ted and tou­rists could spend a night on a ship in the ice, to enjoy an atmo­s­phe­re that remin­ded one of Nansen’s ship Fram during her gre­at ice drift across the arc­tic oce­an in 1893-1896. A bit shor­ter and less dan­ge­rous, but the fee­ling was the­re. Noor­der­licht‘s first sea­son as ship in the ice was in 2002, and sin­ce then, near 7000 over­night guests have enjoy­ed this uni­que expe­ri­ence. Due to per­mit restric­tions, the ship was not open for indi­vi­du­al tou­rists, but only tho­se who came as orga­ni­zed groups with gui­des. It was often visi­ted by groups who came by dog sledge.

The Noor­der­licht crew has the desi­re to explo­re some­thing new and has sche­du­led sai­ling in north Nor­way in the spring 2016, so the ship will not be back in Tem­pel­fjord.

The tour ope­ra­tor behind the ship in the ice con­cept, Base­camp Spits­ber­gen, is now loo­king of an alter­na­ti­ve, so the sto­ry of the ship in the ice may con­ti­nue with ano­t­her ves­sel. It will, howe­ver, be dif­fi­cult to replace Noor­der­licht.

Click here for some 360 degree pan­ora­mas from Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice”.

Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice” in Tem­pel­fjord.

Noorderlicht in Tempelfjord: ship in the ice

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (22/2015)

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: run­ning out of fuel

The air­port at Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Sval­bard luft­havn, is run­ning out of fuel. New kero­si­ne is orde­red and com­ing up by ship, but this takes some time. Mean­while, fuel is ratio­ned. Poli­ce and res­cue ser­vices have got prio­ri­ty, while air­lines are asked to refu­el in main­land Nor­way as much as pos­si­ble.

As a result, direct flights from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Oslo may be for­ced to make an extra stop in Trom­sø for refu­el­ling, which results in delay­ed arri­vals, as this aut­hor pain­ful­ly expe­ri­en­ced last week.

The sup­ply ship is to come next week, and then all pla­nes can refu­el again in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

A king­dom for a jer­rycan! Sval­bard luft­havn is run­ning out of fuel.

Longyearbyen airport

Quel­le: NRK

New Sys­sel­man­nen: Kjers­tin Askholt

Kjers­tin Askholt will be the new Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard from 01 Octo­ber. The Sys­sel­man­nen is the hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an government in Sval­bard and is appoin­ted (not elec­ted) for 3 years. This time, the­re were 7 app­li­cants, as usu­al most­ly high-ran­king poli­ce offi­cers or the juri­di­cal admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Kjers­tin Askholt has been invol­ved with the admi­nis­tra­ti­on of the Nor­we­gi­an polar are­as wit­hin the Minis­try of Jus­ti­ce sin­ce 2003 and is accord­in­gly expe­ri­en­ced in rele­vant mat­ters. She has announ­ced to empha­si­ze gene­ral con­ti­nui­ty and a con­ti­nuous­ly good rela­ti­ons­hip with the Rus­si­an neigh­bours in Bar­ents­burg. The­re are chal­len­ges in both, as the dif­fi­cult situa­ti­on of the coal indus­try, gro­wing tou­rism and the rela­ti­ons­hip with the Rus­si­ans is usual­ly good in Spits­ber­gen but inter­na­tio­nal­ly cur­r­ent­ly obvious­ly dif­fi­cult, which may reflect on the local dia­lo­gue as well.

Kjers­tin Askholt will be the second woman in the posi­ti­on of the Sys­sel­man­nen. The first one was Ann-Kris­tin Olsen, who was the boss on Skjæ­rin­ga from 1995 to 1998. Skjæ­rin­ga is the part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en whe­re the Sysselmannen’s office is loca­ted and a com­mon­ly used local term.

Sys­sel­man­nen from Octo­ber: Kjers­tin Askholt. © Pho­to: Sys­sel­man­nen.

Sysselmannen ab Oktober: Kjerstin Askholt

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

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