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Polar Bear Researchers Still Withholding Hudson Bay Data

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Susan Crockford, Polar Bear Science

The latest polar bear propaganda emanating from The Guardian is unscientific nonsense fed to them by activist Canadian polar bear researchers: Polar bear numbers in Hudson Bay of Canada on verge of collapse.

This episode of Goldenberg’s polar bear grandstanding includes a photo caption with a totally unsubstantiated claim that some folks might call a lie:

Melting ice is cutting polar bears off from their food source in Hudson Bay, and death rates have soared.

“Death rates have soared”? Where are all the bodies? Show us the starving bears!

In fact, the ice of Hudson Bay melts every summer and always has done. When it does, polar bears go ashore and live off the many inches of stored blubber they put on during their spring feasting on fat baby seals. The last three years, the open-water season has been only about two weeks longer than it was in the 1980s. There has been no steady increase but lots of variability.

Below I dismantle the rest of this transparently political posturing ahead of the international polar bear forum next week.

Knowing that a big polar bear conservation meeting is coming up, it’s pretty clear that most of this propaganda is politically motivated.

Near the beginning of this piece, this reporter mocks Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s attempt earlier this year to insert a non-alarmist perspective into a discussion about polar bears and climate change. Goldenberg states:

“The Canadian environment minister provoked outrage last October when she discounted abundant scientific studies of polar bear decline across the Arctic, saying her brother, a hunter, was having no trouble finding bears. Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk, spoke of a “debate” about the existence of climate change.” [my bold, link in original]

[Indeed, the press jumped on Aglukkaq relentlessly (examples here andhere) after her comment this fall, which she later defended]

Finally, Goldenberg gets to the guts of her story: she highlights previously unreported data given to her by activist polar bear researchers who work in Western Hudson Bay with some fancy graphics (a couple of them copied below).

The newest population estimate (see Fig. 1) is based on data only she has seen: it has not been reported anywhere for anyone to see the background details. I’d bet that even this headline-generator for The Guardian hasn’t seen the full report, but was given only the final numbers. She states:

One single polar bear population on the western shore of Hudson Bay, for example, has shrunk by nearly 10% to 850 bears in under a decade, according to the latest Canadian government estimate seen by the Guardian.

The latest Canadian government estimates, which have yet to be shared with independent scientists or the public, confirm scientists’ fears that the polar bears of the western Hudson Bay have little chance of long-term survival.” [my bold]

Have a look at the graphic that depicts this “yet to be shared” data:

Figure 1. On the left, the Western Hudson Bay population estimate for 2013 (“850”) is unsubstantiated – is this based on actual counts or a computer modeled projection? Goldenberg does not say. On the right (“mean estimated mass of lone adult female bears”), note that while the data presented goes to 2007 (only 6 years out of date), in fact the only published data available goes to 2004: the rest is from “Lunn and Stirling, unpublished data.” Click to enlarge.

Figure 1. On the left, the Western Hudson Bay population estimate for 2013 (“850”) is unsubstantiated – is this based on actual counts or a computer modeled projection? Goldenberg does not say. On the right (“mean estimated mass of lone adult female bears”), note that while the data presented goes to 2007 (6 years out of date), in fact the only published data available goes to 2004: the rest is from“Lunn and Stirling, unpublished data.” Click to enlarge.

I’ve addressed this issued of polar bear researchers withholding data before, see “Critical evidence on polar bears in Hudson Bay is unpublished.” The truth is, there is no recently published data on estimated mass (i.e. weight) of female polar bears, litter sizes or survival of cubs in Hudson Bay, so no one knows whether what Stirling and Lunn are saying is actually backed up by solid data or not.

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