IUCN/Polar Bear Specialist Group 14th meeting

Former chair Scott Schliebe (USA) and member Steve Amstrup (USA)Former chair Scott Schliebe (USA) and member Steve Amstrup (USA).Image: Dag Vongraven

The 14th meeting of the IUCN/Polar Bear Specialist Group was convened at the Edgewater Hotel, Seattle, Monday June 20 through Friday June 24 2005.

After welcoming addresses from chairman Scott Schliebe (left picture), and Dan Ashe, Science Advisor to the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the group went down to business. During the course of the week the group discussed matters pertaining to an update of the Red List evaluation of the polar bear, new quotas and the knowledge base for such new quotas in Nunavut, and the lack of adequate reporting of the catch in large parts of the Greenland jurisdiction. Quite some time was devoted to the issue of how the group should treat traditional ecological knowledge (TEK or IQ) in relation to scientific knowledge before setting quotas.

As usual the group reviewed the status table for all the populations and status of new and ongoing research in light of the serious threats to polar bears from climate change, habitat reduction and pollution exposure. There were presentations in these areas of interest from several invited specialists, and a whole day was assigned to a workshop on the methodology behind population assessments, lead by US member and Alaskan polar bear scientist Steve Amstrup (sitting in left picture). The group congratulated Norway with the new population assessment carried out in 2004, giving a scientific valid abundance estimate for the Barents Sea population.

Other presentations were e.g. on modelling of ice movement in the Polar Basin based on information from buoys (Ignatius Rigor, Polar Science Center, University of Washington), Polar Basin climate modelling (David C. Douglas, US Geological Survey), statistical metods in line distance sampling (Jeff Laake, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, and Trent McDonald, Western Ecosystem Tech, Inc.), and the status of polar bear trade and trophy hunts as related to the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (Lisa Lierheimer, USFWS).

Former chair Scott Schliebe and new chair Andrew Derocher (Canada)Former chair Scott Schliebe and new chair Andrew Derocher (Canada).Image: Dag Vongraven

As new chairman the group unanimously elected professor Andrew Derocher (right picture) from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He has extensive research experience with polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and in the Barents Sea, as he was the lead polar bear scientist at the Norwegian Polar Institute in the period 1995-2002. Now he works as a University Professor and does his work both on polar bears and brown bears.

Both the new chaiman and the entire group acknowledged the work of expiring chair Scott Schliebe, who has lead the group in an effortless and solid manner.

Read the press release and the resolutions, and see the list of participants (most participants are in the bottom picture).