(Alaska Native News, 29 March 2012) -- The Alaska House yesterday acted to help the state better prepare and position itself for growing Arctic activity and policy, passing a resolution forwarded by the House Finance Committee to create the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission. The idea comes from a recommendation by the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force, which met over the past two years to examine how the state can work with stakeholders, other governments and interested parties to protect the state's Arctic interests.
Posted 30 March 2012; 4:29:11 PM. Permalink
(Nina Kristiansen/Science Nordic, 30 March 2012) -- The notion about Arctic organisms shutting down during winter has been taken for granted until some tiny copepods proved differently. “We don’t know so much about life up there in the Arctic waters during winter because our research voyages are conducted during the summer season,” says Elisabeth Halvorsen, a marine system ecologist at the University of Tromsø. A year-round monitoring station on Svalbard made some observations that caught the attention of scientists. Certain activities were continuing during long Arctic night. This motivated Halvorsen to join in on the research voyage “The Polar Night Cruise” in January this year. It’s rare for researchers to visit distant arctic regions at that time of year. “We were lucky. The extreme storms dubbed “Dagmar” and “Berit” kept the sea from icing over fairly far north,” says Halvorsen. She found that it was far from all peace and quiet and hibernation up there. “On the contrary, we witnessed a great deal of activity. The object of my studies, the copepod Calanus hyperboreus, was already in spring vigour in January.” C. hyperboreus is the largest of three species of the calinus genus of copepods found in Arctic waters. But it isn’t big, only four or five millimetres long. Despite its modest size, the C. hyperboreus is a vital source of food for fish and seabirds. It is most predominant in the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
Posted 30 March 2012; 4:20:26 PM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News, 29 March 2012) -- The Inuit Circumpolar Council received some good news this past week in Stockholm, Sweden, during a meeting of top officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member nations and its indigenous Arctic participants. The ICC learned that its “Sea ice is our highway” project will move ahead as an official Arctic Council project. This project, funded by Canada, the United States and Denmark, will look at how changes in the Arctic have affected Inuit and how Inuit are adapting to these changes. And it will include interviews “with as many Inuit from Chukotka to Greenland as we can within the budget,” said ICC-Canada’s president Duane Smith in an interview from Stockholm. The resulting document will become part of the Arctic Council’s ongoing Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment work, he said. The ICC project’s approval helps meet the call from the permanent participants, like ICC and the Sami Council, for the inclusion of more indigenous knowledge in the Arctic Council’s work.
Posted 30 March 2012; 4:09:48 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 30 March 2012) -- The federal budget, released Thursday in Ottawa, contains some of the biggest cross-country cuts since the 1990s. Old age security eligibility will be raised to the age of 67, the penny will be phased out, and about 19,000 public sector jobs will be cut over the next three years. The budget also includes several plans for the North. Among the most notable plans is $225 million to repair harbours across the country. Included in that money is a plan to "accelerate" the construction of the harbour in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, which was originally announced in 2009. Also included in the budget is the continuation of an assessment of diamonds in the North – with a price tag of $12.3 million over two years. The plan will renew the Diamond Valuation and Royalty Assessment program, which is run by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Posted 30 March 2012; 3:28:50 PM. Permalink
(Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release via Eurekalert.org, 29 March 2012) -- It's never been easy to be a polar bear. They may have to go months without eating. Their preferred food, seal, requires enormous luck and patience to catch. Add to that the melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change, and the poisoning of the Arctic by toxic chemicals, and it's easy to see why polar bears worldwide are in trouble. Among all the bad news, however, comes one possible bright spot. In a study of PCBs in polar bear cubs in Svalbard, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have found that blood levels of PCBs and related contaminants in polar bear cubs appear to have dropped by as much as 59 per cent between 1998 and 2008. At the same time, levels of these contaminants in their mothers were as much as 55 per cent lower over the same period. "The levels of PCB compounds in blood samples from females are on the decline," says Jenny Bytingsvik, a biologist at NTNU who is completing her doctoral dissertation on the findings. "For newborn, vulnerable cubs, this is a very positive trend. Reduced levels of PCBs in the mother bears' blood mean that there is also less contamination in their milk. Even though the PCB levels we found are still too high, this shows that international agreements to ban PCBs have had an effect."
Posted 30 March 2012; 2:33:35 PM. Permalink