Polar bear populations are recovering well despite claims that declining Arctic sea ice is threatening their survival, according to a report by a group which disputes mainstream thinking on climate change.
There are at least 25,000 bears, more than double the number in the 1960s, when hunting had left some populations close to collapse, according to the author of the report, Susan Crockford, a zoologist and adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. She said polar bears were “a conservation success story”.
The melting of sea ice as the temperature in the Arctic rises twice as fast as elsewhere has prompted fears that polar bears will starve, because they depend on the ice to catch seals. “Polar bears are doing well despite dramatic declines in summer sea ice, for one simple reason: polar bears don’t need ice in late summer/early fall as long as they are well fed in the spring,” Dr Crockford concluded in the report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
The number of subpopulations which are “likely in decline” has fallen from seven in 2010 to two last year, according to an assessment by Canada’s Department of the Environment.
About 3,200 polar bears were added late last year to the global known total after Russian biologists completed the first assessment of the Kara sea population. Polar bears in the Chukchi sea are “in good condition and reproducing well” and numbers in the southern Beaufort sea are the highest for a decade, the report said.
“Even though 2012 had the longest open-water period in the southern Beaufort since at least 1979, researchers in the area reported no starving bears during the summer of 2012 or in the spring of 2013,” Dr Crockford wrote.
She said there were so many polar bears in the Foxe Basin and the southern Davis Strait that “they may be decimating some nesting sea bird colonies”.
The report concluded: “Polar bears are not currently threatened with extinction due to declining sea ice, despite the hue and cry from activist scientists and environmental organisations.”