Polar Wildlife Report reveals Arctic and Antarctic animals were thriving in 2022

From Polar Bear Science

Susan Crockford

The Polar Wildlife Report is a peer reviewed summary of the most recent information on polar animals, relative to historical records, based on a review of 2022 scientific literature and media reports. It is intended for a wide audience, including scientists, teachers, students, decision-makers and the general public interested in animals that live in Arctic and Antarctic habitats, including polar bears, killer whales, krill, and penguins.

Polar wildlife was thriving in 2022

London, 27 February: A prominent Canadian zoologist says that Arctic and Antarctic wildlife continued to thrive in 2022 despite predictions of impending catastrophe.

In the Polar Wildlife Report 2022, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) on International Polar Bear Day, zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford explains that ice-dependent species in the Arctic and Antarctic show no sign of impending population crashes due to lack of sea ice.

Crockford’s report reveals that there were no reports in 2022 that would suggest that polar wildlife is suffering as a result of reduced sea-ice extent: no starving polar bears or walrus, no beach-cast dead seals, no marked declines in great whale numbers, no drowned penguin chicks.

While a few Antarctic penguin species and the Antarctic minke whale appear to have suffered a recent decline in abundance, these were unrelated to sea-ice cover in the Southern Ocean. Similarly, in the Arctic, a recent 27% decline in polar bear numbers in Western Hudson Bay was found to be unrelated to sea-ice conditions over the last five years.

Indeed, contrary to all expectations, critical Antarctic winter sea ice has been increasing since 1979. While sea-ice experts have long voiced concerns that computer models of future Antarctic sea ice coverage are seriously flawed, biologists concerned about the future of ice-dependent emperor penguins and Antarctic krill have continued to use them to justify alarmist predictions.

Crockford concludes: “In both the Arctic and Antarctic, less summer sea ice has meant increased primary productivity, which in turn has meant more food for all animals. This explains in part why polar wildlife continues to thrive, even in areas with much reduced summer sea-ice coverage.”

Crockford, S.J. 2023. The Polar Wildlife Report. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing 63, London. pdf here.

Key Findings

  • There were no reports in 2022 that would suggest polar wildlife is suffering as a result of reduced sea-ice extent; in both the Arctic and Antarctic, less summer sea ice and increased primary productivity over the last two decades has meant more food for all animals, which explains in part why polar wildlife has been thriving.
  • Arctic sea ice in summer has declined since 1979, but has had an overall flat trend since 2007; coverage was again well below average in the Barents and Chukchi Seas in 2022, where continued high primary productivity has provided abundant food resources for wildlife; winter ice coverage in 2022 was slightly lower than 2020 but overall has shown a relatively flat trend since 2011.
  • Ice-dependent polar bears worldwide probably now number about 32,000, with a wide range of potential error; a survey of Western Hudson Bay polar bears in 2021 generated a population decline of 27% since 2016, but this did not correlate with lack of sea ice. A genetically-distinct subpopulation of polar bears was discovered thriving in SE Greenland, and western Barents Sea bears (Norway) are still doing well despite the most profound summer sea-ice loss of all Arctic regions.
  • Atlantic walrus numbers are still low, but recovering in the Barents Sea and eastern North America. A new population estimate of Pacific walrus in 2019 reveals more than 200,000 exist in the Chukchi/Bering Sea area. More killer whales were reported visiting the Eastern Canadian Arctic, and in Alaska and the Western Canadian Arctic, bowhead whales are thriving.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent has barely changed since 1979: vital winter ice has slightly increased overall while summer ice has slightly declined (with its lowest extent in December 2022), all while overall primary productivity has increased. A new sea ice predictive model acknowledges previous flaws and does not predict a future decline until 2050 at the earliest.
  • Krill are crucial prey for many species of wildlife (especially huge numbers of great whales and penguins) that live or feed in the Southern Ocean. Future intensification of commercial fishing of krill (largely to feed farmed fish) is likely the largest conservation threat to local wildlife, given recent geopolitical tensions over effective fisheries management.
  • Numbers of fin, blue, humpback, and southern right whales feeding in Antarctic waters in summer have increased in recent years, and while minke whale numbers appear to have declined, an estimated 500,000 individuals still frequent the region.
  • Killer whales (orcas) are the top predator in the Southern Ocean and most populations appear to be thriving. The IUCN lists all ice-dependent seals in Antarctica as ‘least concern’.
  • Several albatross and large petrel species are considered ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN due to deadly interactions with long-line trawlers fishing for Antarctic toothfish (Patagonian sea bass), while over-fishing of this cod-like species and the herring-like Antarctic silverfish is also a concern.
  • Emperor penguins, the largest and most ice-dependent penguin species, were classified as ‘Threatened’ on the US Endangered Species List in 2022 but remain ‘Near Threatened’ according to the IUCN Red List because of the large size of their breeding population and the acknowledged uncertainty of future sea-ice predictions.
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Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 6:24 pm

Antarctic sea ice extent has barely changed since 1979: vital winter ice has slightly increased overall while summer ice has slightly declined (with its lowest extent in December 2022)”

Well, not December. It is actually at a record low right now. Here is a polar plot:

comment image

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 6:54 pm

The report cited is a 2022 report, so December 2022 was the latest data available to it. According to the chart you showed, sea ice does normally decline from December to February, so what you say is not exactly unexpected. I see that the 2022/23 sea ice is now very close to the previous low, ie. that it is coming back to the field a bit. Is that significant? I doubt it. What really is significant, though, to my mind anyway, is that the Arctic and Antarctic fauna are thriving, but the Antarctic fauna are severely threatened by large-scale human predation. I think it would be a good idea for the powers that be to concentrate on the threat of over-fishing and relax about the sea ice.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 2, 2023 11:25 am

Coming back to the field was inevitable since last year was the previous record low and apart from the Weddell Sea there is virtually no ice left to melt.


Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 7:01 pm

Pick those Nits.
Maybe her report was written in January?
As it’s the dead of Antarctic summer it should still be decreasing, that’s just common sense?
Are you suggesting it’s a problem for any wildlife?
If not, you’re just being you.

You must be a riot at parties.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 7:20 pm

And here’s an actual plot (map) of the pole.

comment image

from the source, instead of photoshop. Bet that the bears can’t tell the difference, either.

Reply to  dk_
February 27, 2023 11:52 pm
Nick Stokes
Reply to  1saveenergy
February 28, 2023 1:08 am

Thanks for looking up the right pole. I hope I can make the plot show here:

comment image

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 7:59 pm

So, you couldn’t dispute her report about Polar Bears good condition.

That is swell!

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Sunsettommy
February 27, 2023 8:24 pm

I don’t usually comment on polar bear matters. I wouldn’t have commented on the Antarctic ice matter either, except that I thought some might be interested in the fact that right now a new minimum level is being set.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 9:31 pm

Bull. You usually pull out once tiny factoid and ignore the bigger picture and when somoene calls you out your excuse is “but that’s not what I was commenting about”. Bull. Bull. Bull.

This is just a repeat of your normal behaviour.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 11:52 pm

So what? In 2021 Antarctic sea ice was close to “normal”.

It’s called natural variation.

Who knows, perhaps the volcanoes below the western peninsular are a little warmer this year.

Screenshot 2023-02-28 075033.jpg
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 28, 2023 1:34 am

Every year the majority of Antarctic sea ice disappears, the fact that this year the minimum is within the margin of error the same as last year, but perhaps 0.01mkm2 less, is significant?
You are just highlighting how the alarmist industry works. Ignore anything that doesn’t suit the narrative, until it does, and still exaggerate and omit vital detail and context, like no significant decline since 1979.
Antarctic sea ice is highly variable year to year, when pre-1979 satellite photos were reassessed it was found that in just a handful of earlier years, sea ice had varied above and below the known limits at that time.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 27, 2023 8:44 pm

“Here is a polar plot:”

A polar polar plot. 😉

Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 28, 2023 8:09 am

Stokes: Repeat after me: “Natural Variation”.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Nick Stokes
February 28, 2023 8:13 pm

Nobody likes a scold, Nick. One can always find a negative if one searches hard enough. Why not search for positives?

February 27, 2023 7:05 pm

As expected, and the opposite of what was quoted by David Attenborough in his film shown on TVNZ1 last night. He thought that Adele Penguins were facing extinction, despite another massive rookery having since been found quite nearby. Plus those poor starving Polar Bears, gathering in crowds around food sources, with their numbers having more than tripled in recent years. I think it appropriate that we use the suitable phrase “Crying Wolf”!
Interesting that they seem to have foresaken the vilification of Carbon Dioxide, and are now intensifying their attack on naturally-occuring methane!

February 27, 2023 7:52 pm

Nice report.

February 28, 2023 3:06 am

This should be HEADLINE NEWS! But then the newspapers would finally lose their last 12 or so readers.

February 28, 2023 4:08 am

It is inaccurate to refer to “ice dependent species”. It is accurate to refer to polar species as “ice adapted”. They do not require sea ice coverage to survive, they have simply adapted to the part year sea ice coverage which has always varied year to year and over multiple millennia time cycles.

As ice coverage varies species continue to adapt. Polar bears and their antecedent polar species have survived throughout the Pleistocene and Holocene, with 26 major glaciations and inter-glacials. Yet here they are still adapting and thriving.

It doesnot add up
February 28, 2023 5:48 am
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