By Tom Fries Arctic News 9 June – 15 June, 2012
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READS OF THE WEEK
If you’ve only got a few minutes this week, spend your time on these particularly useful, informative, creative or well-written pieces.
It being in all of our interests to bow to the éminences grises resident at the Economist, I’ll lead off with reference to their justifiably-lauded extended section on the Arctic this past week. The analysis is thoughtful and the writing is, as always, impeccable and a delight to read.
Although it’s historical rather than current, this article from Up Here magazine on a group of Labrador Inuit sent to Germany to appear as human exhibits in a zoo in the late 1800s is well worth your time. Rather than a rant about how backward our European forebears were, it’s a thoughtful and eye-opening look at how the Inuit in the exhibit viewed their experience. Another edifying historical review – this time, of some noteworthy failures and successes of British and Canadian Arctic exploration – comes from Roger McCoy via the Huffington Post.
The business-vs-environment debate that accompanies any and all extractive-industry proposals in the Arctic is sometimes exhausting to read about, because it so often seems to be a war of opinions and values which could simply be copy/pasted wholesale from one project to the next. Carey Restino of the Bristol Bay Times wrote an op-ed that captured her (and my) frustration with the nature of such debates perfectly (via AD).
There’s been a great deal of back-and-forth in the press about food security in Nunavut in recent weeks. Of all that I’ve read, this blog post from Zoe Todd has offered the best, most thorough and dispassionate overview of the situation and the many moving parts that affect it.
A critical skill for any successful CEO or diplomat is the ability to artfully not-answer substantive questions, and thus I would not ordinarily recommend an interview with a CEO as a read of the week. But a lengthy interview by Maclean’s with Shell CEO Peter Voser offers, to a surprising degree, a peek behind the curtain.
Please note as well a call for articles for the 2013 Arctic Frontiers conference. If you’ve got good research to add to the pool, please dive in!
BLOOD & TREASURE
Russia’s Yury Dolgoruky,a new Borei-class submarine carrying nuclear ballistic missiles, underwent sea trials over the weekend, leaving from the Sevmash shipyard on the White Sea. The sub is 170m long, 13.5m wide, and has displacement of 24,000 tons. It carries 16 ballistic missiles (navaltoday.com). It successfully finished those trials after the weekend, and it was announced that the sub would be commissioned on Russian Navy Day (navaltoday.com). Also undergoing sea trials out of the Sevmash yard was the Indian navy’s INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (Russia & India Report).
Meanwhile, under the international Open Skies Treaty, Russian inspectors began overflights of Sweden and Finland (RIAN), while Finnish president Niinistö expressed an unwillingness to deploy his air force on its own to monitor Iceland’s airspace (YLE). Norway and Russia conducted successful joint drills for search-and-rescue and, of course, oil-spill cleanup (BO – video here), while France sent the frigate De Grasse to the White Sea to conduct one day of joint anti-piracy drills with Russian naval partners (BO, RIAN).
Across the ocean in Canada, the Iqaluit coast guard center opened for the season (CBC) and American defense contractor Raytheon announced that it had won a $19mn contract to work with Navy and Air Force satellite communications systems to improve secure coverage over the poles (spaceref.com).
THE POLITICAL SCENE
Secretary Clinton met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in Tromsø this week to cover a number of common issues. It seems to have been their first opportunity to share some quality time together (FP blogs, from Mia Bennett). I’d love to have been a fly on the wall. Back at Secretary Clinton’s home in Washington, DC, Senator John Kerry is bringing in the big guns to encourage US ratification of UNCLOS (AD). This past week he trotted out “no fewer than six four-star generals and admirals” to make the point. Betsy Baker, via the Institute of the North, discussed the further value to the US of accession to UNCLOS, pointing out that the Convention serves, in part, as an underlying framework to support more specific regional agreements.
Everyone loves to read about China’s engagement with the Arctic, and this week provided plenty of material. Hu Jintao became the first Chinese head of state ever to visit Denmark (Arctic Council IPS), and mutual interest in Chinese engagement with Greenland’s sure-to-develop minerals sector seems to be the cause for friendly overtures in both directions (Copenhagen Post 1 and 2, both worth a read, plus politiken.dk, in Danish). Iceland is also doing its best to be China’s friend in the Arctic (Arctic Portal).
Cross-border cooperation and influence continues to be a major theme as well, with Canadian and Russian officials applauding themselves for a history of positive collaboration (ITAR-TASS) and the Nordic countries undertaking an admirable joint initiative to share the benefit of their experience in sustainable development with other, more wayward countries (norden.org). The Nordic countries are also looking for ways to exert greater influence on the European stage (norden.org), and a recent visit to Greenland by Member of the European Commission Maria Damanaki seems to have focused primarily on fisheries (thefishsite.com, Commissioner Damanaki’s blog).
Across the ocean in North America, Canada’s function as a role model on the international stage was called into question by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe & Mail, and the country’s unwillingness to encourage international interest and understanding was reviewed regretfully by Paul Martin in University Affairs. Next door in Alaska, Governor Sean Parnell was busy signing economic- and energy-development bills into law (press release), while an open letter from Citizens for Ethical Government, published in Alaska Dispatch, asked the federal government NOT to close its investigation into corruption in Alaskan government.
There was also a really good post from the Institute of the North that I wanted to mention, but the URL seems to have died and no amount of searching or clicking around could resurrect the article for me.
Reasoned objections to, and concerns about, the progress of Arctic drilling were highlighted by a good piece in the Guardian and an excellent piece from Betsy Beardsley in Forbes. Nevertheless, Shell’s northern activities proceed apace. They’ve contracted with TransCanada to build a $4bn pipeline from Canada’s interior to semi-coastal Kitimat on the Pacific coast of BC to take LNG to Asian markets (Bloomberg), while announcing in Alaska that they’re looking at a pipeline route across the National Petroleum Reserve to link up with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (Alaska Journal). The company’s drilling rig the Kulluk is nearing the end of its refurbishment in Seattle, and Greenpeace is preparing its own navy of sorts, including submarines, to monitor the company’s offshore activities this summer (AD, KPLU). Greenpeace won’t be the only one watching; federal inspectors from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will be doing round-the-clock duty on Shell’s rigs (San Francisco Chronicle), and the Department of the Interior is paying special attention to the initial review of Shell’s plans (The Hill). Meanwhile an interview from Maclean’s with Shell CEO Peter Voser is a definite read of the week, mostly because it covers more bases than one usually gets.
In what is certainly a creative protest to Shell’s drilling plans, Greenpeace brand-jacked Shell with a mockumentary of a send-off party for its Arctic rigs. The video sparked a ton of joking on the intertubes and inspired its own Twitter hashtag. The detailed story from Greenpeace is here, and you can see the gallery of their social ads as well. My own opinion: a lot of these are hilarious, including “you can’t run your SUV on ‘cute’”. The denouement of a less-successful earlier protest took place as well, as actress and activist Lucy Lawless pled guilty to trespassing on the Noble Discoverer, another Shell rig currently on its long journey to the Arctic (AD).
In Russia, most of the news this week was about Gazprom’s activities. Shtokman, of course, continues to be a comedy of mixed messages –Total CEO Christophe de Margerie said of the project partners that “it would be good to talk to each other directly and not through the media” (BO). One does get the impression that the partners don’t know a great deal more than Average Citizen X can read in the newspapers. The Moscow News also said that a final investment decision might – might – be expected at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, while word goes around that ExxonMobil (WSJ) and Shell might both be considering picking up a stake. I would imagine that there are better places where either company might put its money at this point, but I am no expert.
Gazprom is also looking at selling “non-core business” Gazflot, an offshore-drilling subsidiary (BO), while upping its activity elsewhere in the Arctic. Preparatory activity at the Novoportskoye field is underway; the oil to come out of this field is intended for shipping out of a yet-to-be-built port at Cape Kammeny (oilandgaseurasia.com). Oil from Prirazlomnoye will enjoy a 50% reduction on export duties (Reuters), and work on the pipeline to bring gas from the Bovanenko field to the nearest hub is continuing (Bloomberg), while Gazprom Neft is on the prowl for a foreign partner to develop the Dolginskoye field (marinelink.com). Gazprom remained the world’s largest gas producer in 2011 (Platts), but the possibility of unconventional gas resources coming on line in Europe and the US has the company trembling (naturalgaseurope.com).
The announcement that BP is looking to sell its 50% stake in TNK-BP has been causing ripples, following on the recent resignation of Mikhail Fridman as the joint venture’s CEO (RIAN). The sale of half of Russia’s third-largest energy company would of course change the shape of that country’s hydrocarbon industry, and the smart money seems to be on acquisition of the stake by another Russian company (Telegraph). Indeed, the government’s recent privatization initiatives seem to have been met with more skepticism than enthusiasm (Moscow News). Meanwhile Russia and its foreign partners both seem to be betting on unconventional oil and gas resources in Siberia as a power play in world markets for the near-term future. Siberia’s Bazhenov field is similar to North Dakota’s Bakken, and ExxonMobil and Rosneft are working together to extract the oil (BW), while Rosneft announced that it would be looking at production of up to 300,000 barrels of oil per day from such resources (Reuters).
Moving on to Scandinavia, a strike of oil workers from Baker-Hughes is having a serious impact on Statoil’s drilling activities (fuelfix.com). Aftenbladet reports that the strike may be costing NOK30mn per day. A cessation of work on drilling rigs doesn’t mean a cessation of rental costs, so this could become enormously expensive both for the renting companies and for the Norwegian government, which subsidizes rentals (AB). Related work-environment claims against Statoil have been dropped after police found insufficient cause to pursue an investigation (AB).
Despite all the above grim news, business is booming in Norway: first estimates of 2013 investment in oil and gas activity in Norway run to $32.4 bn (AB), and Transocean suggests that 158 wells will be drilled offshore in the Barents in the next 5 years (BO). Statoil also locked down its first major deal to ship LNG to Asia via an import terminal in Malaysia (upstreamonline.com). Meanwhile the Norwegian government is trying to scold its industrial partners into waiting for government approvals before signing on to contracts, rather than attempting to pressure the government to give approvals by signing on in anticipation (Fox Business). Meanwhile a (newly announced?) requirement from Canadian firm Couche-Tard that 90% of Statoil’s shareholders approve the sale of Statoil’s retail stations to the Canadian buyer seems an unusually high hurdle to set (AB). But again, I’m no expert.
Smaller tidbits of news: temporary, expected reductions in gas flows from Norway to mainland Europe meant diversion of Norwegian resources to the UK (Reuters); Swedish oil and gas firm Lundin has established its first office in Harstad, Norway to serve its licenses in the Barents (BO); and Finland is discussing linking its natural gas network to Europe’s to cut reliance on Russia (Bloomberg).
In Canada, a coalition of Norwegian companies is proposing seismic surveying in the Davis Strait, against strong opposition from several environmental and aboriginal organizations (CBC). As usual, the best coverage comes from Jane George with Nunatsiaq News. The president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association says that the organization does not oppose development, but wants to be included and consulted on any plans (CBC). In a related story, the new president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Terry Audla, has said that ensuring Inuit inclusion in any resource development plans will be a top agenda item for him (G&M).
If you’ve got the time to take in your Arctic oil info via video, a recording of this past week’s panel discussion at Brookings is available here.
We’ll start elsewhere before moving to Canada. In Russia, the government announced its readiness to sell its entire stake in diamond champion Alrosa (steelguru.com), possibly piecemeal, for an approximate total value of $14bn (Business Insider). Elsewhere, the Murmansk-based apatite producer and processor Oleny Ruchey welcomed a visit from a Norwegian representative, who says his intent is in part to help Norwegian companies get engaged with local economic activities in Murmansk (BN). Meanwhile Norilsk Nikel resumed shipments this week from its seasonal port of Dudinka at the mouth of the Yenisei river (Reuters).
Moving across the Bering Strait to Alaska, the environment-vs-business debate over the proposed Pebble Bay mine prompted Carey Restino of the Bristol Bay Times to write an op-ed that captured her (and my) frustration with the nature of such debates perfectly (via AD). The troubled Rock Creek gold mine elsewhere in Alaska is ready to be sold to the Bering Straits Native Corp, permitting lame-duck owner NovaGold Resources to focus on its Donlin property (WFP, ADN), while the announcement by Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game that it will be enforcing a ban on mining within half a mile of the state’s salmon streams has drawn the ire of all the reasonable, cool-headed people who have been inspired by American reality TV to head to Alaska and try their luck seeking gold in the Nome region (ADN). Does everyone believe that that the forbidden ground is all that’s standing between them and a lifetime of champagne baths and private jets?
Now to Canada. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver spoke at a recent mining conference about Responsible Resource Development, which focuses on “[making] project reviews more predictable and timely; [reducing] duplication of project reviews; [strengthening] environmental protection; and [enhancing] Aboriginal consultations” (press release). At the provincial level, the NWT hopes to pursue a mineral development strategy of its own to “send a clear signal of the value that we place on our mining sector”; thus saith David Ramsay (speech transcript). Meanwhile the new president of ITK, Terry Audla, is determined to make sure that the development of natural resources supports the aboriginal communities whose lives it impacts (G&M).
The review process for Baffinland’s proposed Mary River iron mine continues to drag, with: representatives of constituent organizations expressing concern over the path and impact of the additional shipping that would result (NN); a local filmmaker requesting a human rights assessment of the possible impact of the project (NN); and the Nunavut Marine Region Impact Review Board expressing concerns over the project as well (NN). I’m no fortune-teller, but I don’t see a quick resolution to this.
Other proposed and existing mines are facing similar challenges. A proposed project by Anconia Resources near Baker Lake in Nunavut is causing concern because of its location in the middle of caribou calving grounds (CBC), but Baker Lake is simultaneously calling it a catastrophe that another nearby mine – the Meadowbank gold mine – is planning to close. This would drive the community to 80% unemployment in one fell swoop, the mayor says (NN). Not all is wailing and gnashing of teeth, though; a significant federal approval from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada came through for a zinc mine in the Nahanni National Park Reserve (CBC); and the Stornoway Diamond Corp’s Qilalugaq mine near Repulse Bay in Nunavut appears to promise 26.1mn carats of diamonds (NN).
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY
First, thanks to Eva Holland and Up Here Business for a useful and entertaining post on the perils of “Northern” branding.
Fisheries in Canadian Arctic waters don’t get the press that they do in Alaskan waters, but CanNor, the Canadian Northern Development Agency, announced this week that it will be investing in commercial fisheries in Nunavut, calling it “one of the key sectors for economic development in the region” (north.gc.ca). Next door in Alaska, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council announced a 15% reduction in halibut bycatch beginning in 2014 (alaskapublic.org). The Alaska Journal of Commerce seems to grumpily approve the decision in an editorial, in which they also clarify why a cooperative fishing program may be the way to achieve the desired reduction in bycatch.
The earlier tribulations of Alaska’s crab fishermen, a result of prolonged ice cover in the Bering Sea, seem to be over – catches are going well at this late date in the season (AD). NOAA will be surveying populations of this and other important stocks this year (Cordova Times), while Alaska’s state government has set up a lifeline of mariculture loans for small and medium enterprises in Southeast Alaska (Juneau Empire).
Around the world, Russia’s Northeast Sakhalin Island salmon fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (worldfishing.net). It’s interesting to read about the arrangement that resulted in the certification. Next door in Norway, farmed-cod breeding programs are likely looking at increased investment by government and industry; both classes of actors have expressed interest (worldfishing.net). In good news for wild cod, Norwegian and Russian experts have concluded that efforts to reduce illegal cod overfishing in the Barents have been successful now for the third year running (fis.com). As a result, a 25% increase in cod quota for 2013 has been recommended. Meanwhile, in Norway’s North Sea waters, the Norwegian government is attempting to create a balance between fishing and other industrial needs (fishupdate.com).
News on shipping via the Arctic will doubtless become a larger and larger part of this weekly briefing over time. This week featured plenty of chatter about the Northern Sea Route, which looks ready to melt earlier than usual this year (Summit County Voice) and which Michael Byers, an excellent writer and a logical voice on Arctic issues, suggests should provide material for political cooperation between Canada and Russia (Moscow Times). Cargo volume through the NSR is expected to double from 2011 to 1.5mn tons this year (BO), and the potential cost and time reductions are, of course, significant (Bloomberg). Japan’s interests here could also have an impact, considering how much of this traffic would pass through the Sea of Japan, as illustrated by this useful post from the Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies.
There’s been talk of Iceland’s potential new role as a shipping hub for this increased traffic, and the Faroe Islands appear to be considering how they, too, might get in on the game (Arctic Portal). It’s not just shipping; Russia’s famous nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory is preparing for its summer season carting wealthy and/or extremely committed tourists to and from the North Pole (BO). A cautious and well-reasoned response to all this excitement about increased shipping came from MarineLink.
Land transport is also critical in northern Russia, and the development of a new Murmansk transport hub featuring a new rail line and a coal port on the Western shore of the Kola Bay is looking more and more likely as well (BO). However, overall shipping through Russia’s Arctic ports appears to have dropped precipitously (23.5%) from 2011 to 2012 for the period Jan-Apr (blackseagrain.net).
In other miscellaneous shipping news, we heard fear from Aftenbladet that the Norwegian sailor, a species that works primarily on offshore rigs, might go extinct if wage agreements that allow Norwegian labor to remain cost-competitive with labor from elsewhere in Europe are allowed to lapse. In Canada, there are whispers that the Harper government’s contracts for shipbuilding to Halifax and Vancouver might shrink or be postponed further, no boon to Canada’s shipbuilding industry either (Vancouver Sun).
Distress over the incredibly high cost of food in Canada’s Arctic continues to garner press this week. How high? Check out this picture of a Nestle 24-pack of half-liter water bottles, coming in at $104.99. Saturday saw protests both in Nunavut (AD) and Ottawa (NN), driven in part by an exploding Facebook Group “Feeding my Family” which appears to have 21,000+ members as of this writing. The National Research Council of Canada released a report pointing out that food insecurity often means, in practical terms, reliance on cheap junk food for northern families, resulting in growing problems of obesity and diabetes (NN). It may be, however, that there has been progress in the past year; North West Co released a spreadsheet showing that an undefined basket of healthy foods costs 15% less now than a year ago (NN), in part as a result of the Nutrition North Canada program.
Reaction to this issue has come from many sectors, including a wonderful blog post giving both good detail on the history of northern food subsidies and personal experience of northern prices (zoeandthecity.wordpress.com). The Manitoba provincial government has meanwhile expressed a tentative willingness to do something – details unclear – about prices in that province’s northern communities, but asks first that the federal government do more (WFP). Attacking the issue from another angle, chef Rebecca Veevee is running a show on the Aboriginal Public Television Network offering updated versions of traditional Inuit dishes (Montreal Gazette). I’d love to see a couple episodes online.
Under the broader umbrella of human rights, two experts recommended the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in Nunavut (NN), while the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Yellowknife particularly is also covered nicely in a blog post from Michael Becker. On the health front, the rationing (CBC) and eventual recall (CBC) of a Sanofi Aventis tuberculosis vaccine used widely in Nunavut for newborns cannot be a good development. Rates of TB in Nunavut are 75x the national average.
In education this week, Joey Flowers enjoyed the honor of being Nunavik’s first Inuk law school graduate (NN), while Aqqaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth (NN). At the primary school level there was both good news in the form of (modest) scholarships from a Tata Steel project for students in Kuujjuaq, a town located near a proposed mining complex (NN), and bad news as government funding in the NWT for students with disabilities dried up (CBC). Meanwhile the National Aboriginal Health Organization is attempting to address bullying in Canada’s aboriginal communities, calling it a major problem (NN).
Flooding in the Yukon, NWT and Alaska was big news this week. Flooding of the Liard River took out portions of the critical Alaska Highway (CBC) , causing intense backups of traffic, and, while portions of the mudslides and rockslides were cleared on Monday 11 June (Whitehorse Star), further flooding downstream forced some residents in Canada’s three northern territories to evacuate (CBC). The unfortunate community of Nahanni Butte was essentially flooded out (article & photos from CBC), which obviously is awful but which also gave some people the opportunity to show their best sides in caring for those who needed help (CBC).
In connectivity elsewhere and of other kinds, the announcement was made this week that the NWT government is preparing an environmental assessment for an all-weather road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, currently connected only by ice road or by air (CBC). Russia and its Scandinavian neighbors are working out an updated agreement on which airlines get to fly from where to where (atwonline.com), while the first Nuuk-Iqaluit flight by Air Greenland touched down on Friday (NN). Government support for regular helicopter service to Little Diomede island in the Bering Strait was announced to, I’m sure, positive reaction (AD), but regular helicopter service in the NWT is a headache because of regular noise – Iqaluit’s city councilors are looking at the possibility of reducing “annoying” helicopter traffic for mines, archaeological sites, etc (NN). Communications infrastructure is also slowly improving; an Industry Canada program is subsidizing the provision of faster broadband to communities in Nunavut (NN), some of Alaska’s remote communities will soon enjoy 4G LTE service (akbizmag.com), and a mobile company in Russia’s Sakha republic is upgrading its infrastructure as well (telecompaper.com).
A couple of final miscellaneous notes: The Assembly of First Nations in Canada may be looking at its first female chief; four women are in the running (APTN). Indigenous corporations in Alaska’s interior announced that, taken together, they constitute the fifth largest economic entity after the military, the federal government, the U of Alaska and the Fairbanks school system (FNM).
ENVIRONMENT & NATURAL SCIENCE
The bad news came thick and fast this week. Volcanic activity in Iceland will be causing serious melt to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland, and Europe, this year (Arctic Portal). Thawing permafrost in the Alaskan village of Selawik is causing a host of health and infrastructure issues for residents (NN). The NSIDC released a fairly discouraging report on ice extent across the Arctic, nicely summarized by the International Polar Foundation. Greenland saw the hottest May temperatures it’s ever recorded (Ice News). The East Siberian Sea is apparently now contributing more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than it takes in (AD, EOTA).
One surprising change was the giant algal bloom discovered beneath the ice this week (Christian Science Monitor) north of Alaska. Some are suggesting that it might be the result of thinner ice and increased density of melt ponds on the surface of the ice, which may act as magnifying lenses, bringing more light to the waters beneath (CNN). We also heard that increased plant growth is happening on land; the northwestern Eurasian tundra is now playing host to tree-size shrubs, a new thing (HuffPo).
In the face of all this, a sort of crabby optimism is probably the only useful perspective. It’s what one feels when one sees that nations like Norway are managing to reach national agreement on at least some kind of climate agreement (AB), or that organizations like Greenpeace continue to push hard for steep reductions in international dependence on hydrocarbon energy (ecowatch.org), even when that seems, at best, an unlikely near-term outcome. Technology also helps us to gather ever-better data; unmanned aircraft are helping to surreptitiously collect data on critical Arctic species (Frontier Scientists), not just on you and your friends and neighbors. Derek Armitage in the Guelph Mercury called for greater support from Ottawa for Arctic science, while Roger McCoy in the Huffington Post reminds us that Arctic science has sprung from humble and benighted – if ambitious – beginnings; perhaps it will grow in quality and quantity quickly enough to have an even greater guiding influence on policy.
In wildlife news, renewable energy efforts in British Columbia are running into wildlife conservation issues, as wind turbines are beginning to kill an appreciable number of endangered bats (Calgary Herald). People, however, have been the unsuspecting victims of a habitually dive-bombing eagle in Unalaska. The city has now gained permission to move its nest elsewhere (AD). The United States’ efforts to ban international trade in polar bear parts is facing significant resistance from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (NN), and Alaskan government representatives are making an effort to give the US Commerce Secretary the right to set catch limits for Alaskan Eskimo whalers’ annual bowhead whale hunt, regardless of what the International Whaling Commission might say (EOTA). In a related – and weird – story, Eskimo whalers are also seeking the right to manufacture exploding harpoons here in the US, rather than importing them from Norway (EOTA).
Ptarmigans are being studied by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for possible “admission” to the endangered species list (Summit County Voice), but the population of reindeer on Svalbard seems to be exploding, perhaps due to the greater availability of vegetation (Svalbard Post, in Norwegian). In contrast, Baffin Island’s caribou population seems to be down (CBC).
Observational research also had a big week, as a set of 360mn year old tracks were found near Hay River, NWT (CBC) and a second ADORABLE Pacific loon chick was born in full view of the Alaska Loon Cam. It’s so fun to watch. Thanks to the operators.
In other miscellaneous environment news, hearings will begin shortly in Alaska for a new Coastal Management Program (Tundra Drums). It looks as though it’s being used as a political football, but I’m in no position to judge whether that’s opinion or fact (Alaska Commons).
THE SPORTING LIFE
An entertaining joke about moving Canada’s world cup qualifying matches to Inuvik came out of the CBC this week, but a story about Sweden’s national soccer team going a little over the line in training doesn’t seem to be a joke (The Local).
THE GRAB BAG
Now, all the things that don’t fit tidily somewhere else.
A site that produces haiku, as inadvertently spoken by Canadian parliamentarians. Genius.
A compelling story from Up Here magazine on a group of Labrador Inuit who were put on display in a zoo in Germany in the late 1800s.
We congratulate Arctic Portal on being confirmed as a member of the UArctic system.
Interested in some of the mythological demons haunting Alaska? I know you are. Alaska Dispatch will tell you about five of them.
Nunavut’s classic polar bear license plates are being stolen in ever greater numbers, making them a hassle for owners in Iqaluit (NN).
If you’re interested in the life of a seasonal stripper in Alaska, well, plunge in to this article from Alaska Dispatch.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
A video from NASA on the phytoplankton bloom in the Arctic Ocean.
A video from Greenpeace on the annual Russian snowmelt in the Komi Republic, and how it brings oil from winter spills on land into local waterways.
A video on how to identify bear tracks in Glacier Bay. From Frontier Scientists.
Two great photo essays from: the BBC, on reindeer herders in the Russian Arctic; and from Erika Larsen in the New York Times, on Sami reindeer herders.
Great photos from Instagram users rickardlarsson83, ezoesch, ghveem and zaz600, from Twitter users @oceanwideexp, @yakutia and @TrudePettersen, from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, from Flickr user jimbob_malone and from photographers Bruce McKay, Clare Kines (1, 2, 3) and Laura Dyer.
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Moscow Times (MT)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Northern Public Affairs (NPA)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
 Photo Courtesy of Tom Parker, http://arcticresearch.wordpress.com/blogs-from-the-field/