Arctic Basin (AB)

The population size is unknown. This subpopulation is a geographic catch-all to account for polar bears outside of the polar bear nations’ jurisdictions.

Status table outtake

Size Sea ice metrics Human-caused removals 2010–2014
Estimate /
95% CI
Year Method Change in spring ice retreat / Change in fall ice advance (days per decade) Change in summer sea ice area (percent change per decade) 5-yr mean Last year
Potential Actual Potential Actual
Unknown  -3.2/8.0-6.7    
See also the complete table (all subpopulations)

Comments, vulnerabilities and concerns

Not specified.

Status and delineation

Arctic Basin subpopulation mapThe Arctic Basin area. See also the complete map (all subpopulations).

The Arctic Basin subpopulation is a geographic catchall to account for polar bears resident in northern areas of the circumpolar Arctic that are not clearly part of other subpopulations. Polar bears occur at very low densities here, in part because of deep, cold, stratified, and less biologically productive water and, formerly at least, extensive coverage by multiyear ice. It is known that bears from several subpopulations may use the area (Durner and Amstrup 1993). As climate warming continues, it is anticipated that areas where some ice may still remain over the continental shelf may become important for polar bears as a refuge but a large part of the area is over the deepest waters of the Arctic Ocean and biological productivity is thought to be low. Polar bears with cubs have recently been observed from icebreakers in this region (Ovsyanikov 2010), although it is not possible to determine whether or not these cubs were born in the Arctic Basin, or make an assessment of possible total numbers on the basis of these anecdotal observations. Ovsyanikov (pers. comm.) reported that in 2015-16 very few polar bears were seen along this route in July – August (from Svalbard to Chukotka). The northernmost documented observation was made at 89°46 5'N, which is 25 km from the North Pole (van Meurs and Splettstoesser 2003).


Durner, G. M. and Amstrup, S.C. 1993. Movements of a female polar bear from northern Alaska to Greenland. Arctic 48:338–498.

Ovsyanikov, N.G. 2010. POlar bear research on Wrangel Island and in the Central Arctic Basin. In: Proceedings of the 15th Working Meeting of the Polar Bear Specialist Group (eds. M.E. Obbard, G.W. Thiemann, E. Peacock and T. DeBruyn), IUCN, Glande, Switzerland.

van Meurs, R. and Splettstoesser, J.F. 2003. Fathest north polar bear. Arctic 56: 309.