Nunatsiavut Wildlife Manager Optimistic on Polar Bears

Mom and two 2 -year old polar bear cubs

Polar bear sow and two 2-year-old cubs. Brad Josephs photo.

Despite frequent heart-wrenching images of starving polar bears in the news recently, populations of polar bears are apparently thriving in the Nunatsiavut region of northern Labrador. This is some welcome good news on the status of polar bears in the Arctic.

Based on a quota of 12 polar bears from licenses granted this year by the Nunatsiavut government, wildlife manager Jim Goudie reported that the Inuit quota was filled within the initial seven days of the season.

“There are lots of signs of bears,” he told CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning. “Lots of bears and a continuation of what we’ve seen over the last three or four years.”

According to Goudie, a 2007 survey showed there were around 880 polar bears in the northern Quebec and Labrador regions while the revised numbers recorded show 2,152. This increase is a dramatic rise in the population. Researchers are involved in a two – year study that is indicating even more positive numbers.

“You can go wherever you want to within Nunatsiavut or the Labrador Inuit settlement area to harvest your polar bear,” he said. “Anywhere outside of Nunatsiavut boundaries, the harvest would be illegal.”

To keep track of polar bear pelts that are often sold to wealthy suitors from Asia to Canada, the furs are embedded with a computer chip validating when and where it was taken as well as proof it was acquired through a legal hunt and not poached. Any meat that is not used by the hunters must be donated.

“I think our polar bear population is very, very healthy,” he said. “The Davis Strait polar bear population is probably one of the most healthy in Canada, and certainly in the world.”

With regards to other populations in general, Goudie says most are in good standing and only a few are declining. Still, the fear propaganda is in the news and can be misleading.

Goudie highlights a  National Geographic post showing it first look a starving polar bear, but in reality, the polar bear was sick and not long for life.

“It’s an easy story to put out there, that polar bears are in massive trouble. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue or keep my fingers off the keyboard when I see those social media posts,” he said.

Hopes are high that all polar bear populations in the Arctic will continue to thrive and adapt to a warmer climate in the coming years.

Russia Bridging “Ice Breaker” Gap

Russian icebreaker Arktika

Russian icebreaker Arktika unveiled last week in Russia. Nikita Greydin/Courtesy of Baltic Shipyard photo.

Russia launched its biggest nuclear ice breaker to date last week in St. Petersburg. The 567-foot, 33,500-ton Arktika comes as Russia has plans to expand shipping routes and overall presence in the Arctic region.

 Arktika is the first of a new class of ships known as Type LK-60YA, The long – term plan is for three vessels all commissioned by Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom. Utilizing 80,000 hp (60 megawatts) to crush ice, Arktika will be able to break through thirteen feet thick sea – ice and forge shipping routes in the high Arctic. This will allow container shipping along northern routes that otherwise would be impassable. The ensuing two sister ships will be, Siberia and Urals  and will be built in 2018 and 2020.

Arktika Russian Ice Breaker

Launching of the Russian icebreaker Arktika in St. Petersburg last Thursday. Evgeny Uvarov/Ap photo.

“There are no icebreakers equivalent to Arktika anywhere in the world,” Rosatom CEO Sergey Kirienkoy. “The icebreaker Arktika means real new opportunities for our country.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that the Northern Sea Route could be a better trade route than the Suez canal for world trade, The new icebreakers will play an important role in facilitating this expansion via the shorter distance to Asia and Europe while forging a consistent new route through the Arctic.

Russian icebreaker Yamal in Arctic

Russian nuclear powered Yamal in the Arctic 2007. Getty Images photo.

Russia currently has six nuclear icebreakers in operation as well as more than 30 diesel vessels while the United States has three Coast Guard operated icebreakers which are non-nuclear. The US vessels command only a quarter of the power that the Arktika has. This overall disparity has some officials concerned that Russia is primed for gaining a huge advantage in Arctic shipping and also the exploration for gas and oil deposits in the seabed.

“We’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” stated Coast Guard Commandant Paul F. Zukunft  in 2015.


coast guard icebreaker

Coast guard icebreaker in the Arctic. US Coast guard photo.


The Obama administration is pressuring congress to approve construction of another Coast Guard icebreaker by 2020. Coast Guard has made it clear that the country needs to step up its fleet, “to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.” These needs come at a hefty price of roughly a billion dollars per ship.

Currently only five countries stake claim to the Arctic’s lands and waters:  Russia, Norway, Canada, United States and Denmark.

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