New Survey: Polar bear numbers increased 42% over last 11 years in key population – Some of them ‘as fat as pigs’


By: - Climate DepotDecember 23, 2015 1:54 PM with 15 comments

Via: http://polarbearscience.com/2015/12/23/survey-results-svalbard-polar-bear-numbers-increased-30-over-last-11-years/

Survey Results: Svalbard polar bear numbers increased 42% over last 11 years

Results of this fall’s Barents Sea population survey have been releasedby the Norwegian Polar Institute and they are phenomenal: despite several years with poor ice conditions, there are more bears now (~975) than there were in 2004 (~685) around Svalbard (a 42 30% increase) and the bears were in good condition.

Svalbard polar bear fall 2015_Aars

Oddly, in a September report right after the count, biologist Jon Aars reported them in “excellent” condition, with some of them “as fat as pigs.” I guess “good” is the same as “excellent.”

Bears in the Russian portion of the Barents Sea were not counted this year because the Russians would not allow it; the previous total count, from 2004, was 2,650 (range ~1900-3600) for the entire region.

map-BarentsSea

In the map above (courtesy the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group), the Svalbard archipelago is on the left (Norwegian territory) and the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya on the right (Russian territory).

Oddly, the comments made by lead researcher Jon Aars to a Norwegian newspaper (in English), which picked this up yesterday (“Polar bears make a comeback” ), were far more positive than those in the press release (which is likely all that western media will see).

UPDATE 24 December 2015: The new population survey number for Svalbard is actually a 42% increase over the 2004 number. Thanks to Arvid Oen, a WUWT reader, for alerting Anthony Watts to the error, and to Anthony for passing it along. Title and text fixed accordingly, apologies to any others who have picked this up. Cheers and Merry Christmas.

Here is what Aars stated in the press release (pdf here):

“A rise in the population does not come as a big surprise, as population numbers previously have been low due to the fact that these bears were hunted until 40 years ago, Dr. Aars added.”

[Except that polar bear specialists have been saying the population has almost certainly declined because of sea ice conditions, yet despite the poor conditions in recent years, the bears are doing better than ever]

But here is what local reporters (NTB: News in English from Norway, published 23 December 2015), who were able to contact him for an interview, had to say:

“Researchers from Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø have conducted their first census of sorts since 2004 regarding the polar bear population on Svalbard and in the Norwegian portions of the Barents Sea. “The population has increased,” project leader Jon Aars of the polar institute told NTB. “The Norwegian polar bear population is now calculated to include around 975 bears, compared to 685 11 years ago.”

Aars stressed that there’s a degree of uncertainty in the numbers, but he thinks the researchers have the necessary basis to claim that there’s been an increase in the total.

He also said the polar bears spotted and counted were in “good shape.” He said the ice “came early in the fall of 2014 and lasted a long time.” That means a lot for the bears, he noted.

Ice conditions in the Barents have been poor in most years since 2000, and researchers have been extremely worried about the state of the polar bear population. “It’s positive to see that the polar bears have managed well, under conditions that have been worse for several years,” Aars told NTB.” [my bold]

So again, despite the recent declines in summer sea ice that polar bear specialists, in their expert opinions, insist spell doom for polar bears, the bears are doing just fine. Make up your own mind what that means.

The evidence is now very strong that recent declines in summer/fall sea ice have little to no negative impact on polar bear populations: the real threat to polar bears is thick spring ice (Crockford 2015).

References
Crockford, S.J. 2015. “The Arctic Fallacy: sea ice stability and the polar bear.” GWPF Briefing 16. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Pdf here.


  • JOHNBOY11

    does not matter[the facts] we must ban coal

  • Scott

    Yes but are they the same bears that were alive during the last survey in 2004? If any of them have died it must be our fault!

  • Dorian

    I’m no AGWer, but I do loath lies, deception and incompetence. Science is in a bad way, with all the false science and voodoo that is being conducted under the guise of science. Thus I have to point out also how stupidly the above so called scientific study was done.

    How on earth can any one make the claim that the polar bear numbers are rising when the area under study is not closed to polar bear migration. Polar bears move around, and move around a lot. So what isn’t to say that those increase in numbers of bears now in one region didn’t come from another adjacent region? Especially since, the Russians are not allowing the counting of bears in their region.

    This entire article and opinions of Aars are utter bogus.

    Shame on you Climate Depot for showing this ridiculous article. Shame on you!

    • Christopher Hawkins

      You raise an excellent point about their migration. And your point is well taken with regard to the imprecision of polar bear counts. It’s by no means an exact science. Even the PBSG concedes this point. But what the skeptics have long objected to is the AGWers claims that polar bear populations are decreasing based on the same imprecise counts you address. Of the 19 polar bear population regions, nine had insufficient data because Russia and previously the Soviet Union did not allow counts in their areas. So when AGWers claimed that three of the 10 regions with sufficient data showed declining populations (six showed stable populations and one showed increasing populations) and all three of these regions bordered areas where counting was not allowed, the skeptics reminded the AGWers of the migratory habits of the bears and asked the same question you do, namely how do we know that the bears in these regions didn’t migrate into areas where counts are not kept.

      So all we can really say is that this study changes the status of the Barents Sea region from the insufficient data column to the column of increasing populations. What we obviously need is a study of all 19 regions to make any forecasts of population trends. Until then we can only address whether we see more, less, or about the same numbers in those areas we study.

      http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/status-table.html

    • Zthomm

      Those Svalbard bears have a lot of ocean to migrate through before they hit Iceland (and vice-versa).

  • automaten

    So dorian you don’t trust science. I’m sure the Norwegian have it right but the inconvenient truth is the agw scare tactics after facts is put on the table looks more and more like a lie.
    .

  • Information_overload

    It’s obvious Also Gore has been using his extra millions to secretly fly food in for the polar bears for the last eleven years.

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  • Gary Hall

    ” . .(which is likely all that western media will see)”

    Unfortunately, while the “western media may “see” it, there’s not a chance in the world that they will pass the information along to the broad public. I’d guess that less than 5% of the US electorate will hear anything of it.

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        Clean up on aisle 3, plz

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