Executive Summary for July 29th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including an anthrax outbreak among reindeer in Russia and shipping along the Northern Sea Route.

Published on July 29, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Evacuations Underway Following Anthrax Outbreak

An anthrax outbreak among reindeer in the Yamal region of western Russia has forced the evacuation of the herders and their families from the region, reported the Independent Barents Observer.

Several media outlets have reported that as many as 1,200 reindeer are dead and 34 people have been hospitalized, including children. The herding families raise the animals to supply venison to Russia, Europe and other parts of the world, according to Global Meat News.

Initially, the reindeer deaths had been attributed to a heatwave in the region, The Siberian Times reported. It remains unclear how many of the reindeer deaths are due to heatstroke and how many are the result of anthrax infection. There are 700,000 reindeer in the Yamal Peninsula, of which 480,000 have been vaccinated against anthrax.

The source of the outbreak has not been confirmed, but there are suspicions that it may have occurred when a herd uncovered the carcass of a reindeer that had died of the infection decades earlier, several media outlets reported. Anthrax is caused by a bacterium, whose spores can survive in the environment for long periods of time and through extreme heat and cold.

Officials had first said the animals’ bodies would be burned to prevent the further spread of the infection but have now ruled that out, over fears of igniting wildfires. Instead the animals may instead be buried in a fenced off area, according to ProMED-mail, an electronic reporting system that monitors outbreaks.

Korea Tests Northern Sea Route

A Dutch ship loaded with chemical reactors for a Russian oil refinery has set sail from South Korea and will sail along the Northern Sea Route, reported the Independent Barents Observer.

The cargo ship is expected to arrive in the new Arctic port of Sabetta in mid-August. The operation suggests that South Korea may be interested in using the route more often and signals the port of Sabetta can be widely used, officials told the Independent Barents Observer.

Earlier this month, the Chinese shipping giant COSCO sent the first of three cargo ships along the route that runs along the northern coast of Russia. The Yong Sheng merchant ship was en route to Britain, reported AFP.

Closure of Manitoba Seaport Could Have Arctic Consequences

The surprise closure of the Port of Churchill – the only deepwater port linking Canada’s Arctic waters to its railroads – has raised concerns among politicians, trade union representatives and farmers, reported Radio Canada International.

Although the port has struggled as a grain-shipping hub, many believe it has the potential to provide better connections between the Arctic and the rest of Canada, especially as sea ice thins and melts and extends the shipping season.

The U.S. company that owns the port, OmniTrax, had put it up for sale, CBC reported in December last year. An agreement in principle with a group of First Nations had been announced last year, according to the RCI article.

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