09 December 2009

i'd like to drill another hole in his head

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Polar bear scientist Scott Schliebe of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that baseline data on the Chukchi Sea polar bear population—which is shared by the U.S. and Russia—is urgently needed. "The increased harvesting of polar bears in Chukotka, Russia, raises serious concerns about the status of this population," he says. "We've had persistent reports of high harvests over the past few years. Some estimates place the harvest as high as 200-400 bears per year."

The scientist says that basic information on the size, status, and trend of the population is necessary to make sure the population is sustainable and to avoid situations resulting in depletion. "The old adage is appropriate, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'" Schliebe says.

Data on the population's size, reproduction, survival, condition, and habitat associations will also provide a backdrop for understanding or evaluating the effects of climate change, Schliebe says.

"This region is experiencing some of the most dramatic seasonal movements and reductions in summer ice of any area in the circumpolar Arctic," he explains. "Yet we have only a vague notion, nothing in a quantitative sense, of what the effect of these environmental changes may be having on polar bears: that is, their distribution, fall access to denning areas, the survival of various age classes (with dependent and older bears being the most vulnerable), their physical condition, and corresponding changes in their recruitment and survival."

Finally, Schliebe notes, accurate and up-to-date quantitative life history information on the Chukchi bears could be useful in assessing the effects of a proposed trans-arctic shipping lane, offshore oil and gas development (leasing is set to occur next year in the Alaska sector), and other human activities.

Because the Chukchi population straddles the U.S. and Russia, a baseline study wasn't possible before. However, a new polar bear treaty signed by the two nations will allow scientists from both countries to work together.

PBI has funded a scientific presence on the region's Wrangel Island for the past 10 years. We plan to increase our support now that new studies are possible involving the two nations.
Of course, doing the polar bear studies WHILE Shell is drilling will be a bit more cumbersome, but hell, no biggie.... I just grabbed a slab from the Polar Bears International site and threw some other pertinent links into it... so... consider yourself informed that we're drillin', baby, drillin'....

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