Is there a mutiny in the works between the IUCN Red List and the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) over polar bear population estimates or has there simply been a breach of ethics?
What else explains the fact that some of the subpopulation estimates used by the PBSG to support the status of ‘vulnerable’ for the IUCN Red List in 2015 are unacceptable to them in 2017? And why are the PBSG refusing to embrace the Red List global estimate of 22,000-31,000?
The latest version of the IUCN PBSG status table was posted online 30 March 2017 without fanfare or even a note on their home page. It seems the result came from much discussion at their official meeting last summer (June 2016) that they say continued into early March 2017.
PBGS members voted to reject four subpopulation estimates used in the 2015 Red List polar bear status review – even though the inclusion of those numbers was required in order for the Red List status of ‘vulnerable’ to be upheld. The group has also chosen not to update their global population page with the Red List estimate of 22,000-31,000.
And surprise, surprise – now that only one subpopulation out of nineteen worldwide has shown a recent decline, the PBSG have removed the ‘trend’ columns from their summary table for subpopulations.
Welcome to conservation ‘science’ practiced by IUCN polar bear specialists.
Regular readers may recall that the quality control folks at the Red List insisted in 2014 that a status assessment of ‘vulnerable’ based on future risks generated by predictive computer models could only be used if estimates were provided for all subpopulations (as was stated clearly in the minutes of one of the PBSG meetings posted online, read marked excerpt here).