These revealing photos, taken at an unknown location in the Arctic, show how crewmembers of a Russian nuclear powered submarine are attracting attention from a polar bear by throwing out food. “Feeding them human trash is downright disgusting,” says Arctic Advisor Nils Harley Boisen with WWF-Norway.
A ballistic missile submarine of the Delta-IV class has surfaced near to an ice-floe where a polar bear is spotted. There, the photos show crewmembers throwing loads of garbage, mainly old bread and plastic packaging, into the water to attract the polar bear’s attention.
There are apparently also other foodstuff, plastic bags- and bottles and other garbage, both in the water and on the ice-floe.
BarentsObserver doesn’t know neither the date, nor the location of where the photos are captured. We have got the photos from Aleksandr Serebryanikov, well known as Blogger51 in Murmansk, Russia’s Arctic capital and the administration center of the Kola Peninsula where all the Northern Fleet’s nuclear powered submarines are based.
”Feeding wild polar bears human food is reprehensible for a number of reasons – feeding them human trash is downright disgusting,” says Nils Harley Boisen, Arctic Advisor withWWF Norway to BarentsObserver.
When reviewing the photos, he is disappointed with the Russian Navy’s behaviour.
“The fact that this is the Russian Navy dumping trash in to the oceans is deplorable – marine debris is among the greatest threats facing our oceans and I would really expect the Russian Navy to conduct themselves at a much higher standard,” says Nils Harley Boisen.
Also the Governor of Svalbard, Norway’s Arctic archipelago home to thousands of polar bears, says to BarentsObserver that ”this way of waste management is very unfortunate.”
Eigil Movik is Senior Advisor on Nature Managment. ”It will take a very long time before plastic thrown into the sea decompose. The degradation process will involve plastic fragments of different sizes, ranging from large plastic pieces to micro plastic fragments. Seabirds, fish and other animals often confuse plastic fragments with their prey and, if eaten, it can cause death to the animals because their digestive system are blocked.”
The photos of the Russian submarine crew is not taken within Norway’s economical waters near to Svalbard, but if this had happend at Svalbard, it would clearly violate Norwegian law, Movik explains.
”Based on these provisions, the waste treatment shown in the pictures is violation of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act,” says Eigil Movik.
Nils Harley Boisen with WWF says there are no international rules for dumping trash outside of a country’s exclusive economic zone.
“However, all Arctic nations certainly have their own version of for example Norway’s pollution legislation that would prohibit this in their own national waters. As far as feeding trash to wild polar bears are concerned – it’s not illegal but it’s certainly not wise.”
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin is publiclly know for advocating protection of polar bears. He even runs a dedicated site for the polar bear program at his Kremlin portal.
There are polar bears all around the circumpolar Arctic waters. The one on the photos is likely taken somewhere in the northeastern Barents Sea or north of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean. Those are the ice-covered waters where Russian ballistic missile submarines normally patrol. Waters outside the coast of Siberia are to shallow for submarines to sail.
Norway and Russia share a population of 3,000 polar bears that are migrating on the ice from Spitsbergen in the west to Novaya Zemlya in the east.
The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act also ban any attempt to lure, pursue or otherwise disturb polar bears.
Eigil Movik explains that feeding a polar bear would be a violation of the law.
Related stories from around the North:
Greenland: Study finds increase in litter on Arctic seafloor, Blog by Mia Bennett
Sweden: Sweden tackles plastic bag problem, Radio Sweden
United States: Tsunami of trash looms for Alaska beaches, Alaska Dispatch News