Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic January 18, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Polar bear disappears from vodka brand’s label

Canadian booze purveyor jumps aboard the polar bear publicity bandwagon

STEVE DUCHARME
Here's a limited edition bottle of Polar Ice vodka, sans polar bear. The Canadian booze distributor Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd. says it wants to draw attention to how climate change affects polar bears.
Here's a limited edition bottle of Polar Ice vodka, sans polar bear. The Canadian booze distributor Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd. says it wants to draw attention to how climate change affects polar bears.

The company responsible for the award-winning vodka brand Polar Ice, Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd., announced in a news release yesterday that they expect customers to ask themselves “Where’s the bear?” the next time they pick up a Polar Ice vodka bottle.

So where is it?

Dead or drowned, suggests the news release, characterizing its limited edition logo and bottle as “a nod to what the future will look like as the population declines and sea ice continually melts in the Arctic.”

The company said the new design marks the second consecutive year the Canadian liquor distributor has partnered with the conservation group Polar Bear International to raise awareness about climate change and its effects on the species.

“Our goal is to educate consumers to learn more about the pressing threats of climate change and ensure the species will be around for generations to come,” said Kim Creighton, the brand manager of white spirits for Corby Spirit and Wine, in a statement yesterday.

“It’s not too late to sustain a future for polar bears and we hope we can encourage others to join us in getting involved.”

Canada is home to an estimated 60 per cent of the 26,000 polar bears on the planet—and the image of the polar bear has become an important symbol for conservation activists, scientists and even climate change deniers.

But in case you felt like pouring a stiff one in memory of one of Nunavut’s best-known animal species, the science is more complicated than you might think regarding the current health of polar bear populations.

Earlier this month, Greenland’s fishing and hunting department raised the total allowable harvest of polar bears in the Baffin Bay subpopulation from 64 polar bears to 80 polar bears, following an estimated increase in the population.

Nunavut, which splits the Baffin Bay subpopulation harvest quota with Greenland, is expected to follow suit in the coming months with a similar quota increase.

And last fall, Nunavut’s Wildlife Management Board ruled against recommendations from the territory’s environment department, by requesting that the total quota for bears in the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation rise from 28 to 34 animals for the remainder of the 2017-18 hunting season.

That’s in response to growing safety concerns among Kivalliq communities, like Arviat, over growing polar bear incursions into towns.

In 2017, Arviat reported an estimated 380 sightings of polar bears within municipal boundaries.

The quota increase falls within the 4.5 per cent harvest rate used by the Government of Nunavut to determine quota recommendations within the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation.

A 2016 aerial survey determined that same subpopulation was “relatively stable,” despite some signs of deteriorated body conditions and reproductive issues among some bears.

During a September meeting at NWMB offices in Iqaluit, territorial environment officials acknowledged that declining sea ice could be contributing to driving bears into coastal communities, particularly during the fall season.

But because wildlife officers conduct population surveys of polar bears during the summer, there is currently no data to fully substantiate that theory, officials said.

Meanwhile, winter sea ice extent in the Arctic hit its lowest recorded levels in 2016 for the second year in a row, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

And climate data collected in December last year placed that month as the second-lowest sea ice extent recorded since 1979.

The ongoing debate over the effects of climate change on polar bears was called a “proxy-war” on human-related environmental changes by scientists in a paper released last year.

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